Internet Crimes Against Children
Cyber Crime Defense in Los Angeles
If you are reading this, chances are that you or a loved one has been arrested for using the Internet to meet a minor for the purposes of committing a lewd act.
You may have been on Craigslist or another website, you may have been lured into a conversation with someone who identified themselves as being under 18 (often the chosen age is 14), the conversation may have quickly turned to matters of sex. Explicit sex. Perhaps the person on the other end wanted you to meet them and you consented. You may have driven to a fast food restaurant or a park a great distance from your location. When you arrived you may have found that the person you thought you were going to meet was not there. It was the police. You were arrested and interrogated in a mobile trailer unit and videotaped. You were understandably terrified. All of this happened rather impulsively and you now realize that you made a grave mistake. At the same time, you’re feeling like you were trolled and entrapped by the police who took advantage of you in a moment of weakness.
Another scenario is that you struck up an online relationship with someone who is younger than 18 but perhaps claimed to be 18. Perhaps they claimed to be 16. Perhaps the images you were sent of the person revealed a person who very easily could have been over 18 years old. A parent or another adult found out and reported the contact to the police, and you’ve now been arrested. Even though you only made arrangements to meet the minor and never actually went to meet the person.
Unfortunately, you are facing very serious charges. If you actually went to meet the minor, the case will be charged as a felony punishable by up to 4 years in state prison. Even if this was a sting operation and there was no actual minor present, only police at the designated meeting place to arrest you, it will still be charged as a felony.
If you didn’t go to actually meet the minor, you can be convicted of a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail.
If you are convicted of either a felony or a misdemeanor count of this offense, you will be required to register as a sex offender for life as mandated by California Penal Code Section 290.
You may be frightened about what may happen to you, but read on, there are steps that can be taken to help remedy this situation.
A High Priority for Law Enforcement
First, understand that these crimes are a high priority for law enforcement. For example, in the sting operations (where the police were the one arranging the communication and the meeting), the LAPD now has a dedicated and specially trained “Internet crimes against children” unit. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has a “high tech crimes” division that deals with these cases. These units handle the sting operations.
The offenses where there is an actual minor involved are handled by the local law enforcement agency where the minor made the contact or where a meeting with the minor occurred.
Convictions Under California Penal Code Section 288.4
To sustain a conviction of California Penal Code Section 288.4, the prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That the defendant arranged a meeting with a minor or a person he or she believed to be a minor.
- That the defendant arranged the meeting because he or she was motivated by an abnormal sexual interest in children.
- At the meeting, the defendant intended to expose his or her genitals or pubic or rectal area, to have the child expose his or her genitals or pubic or rectal area, or engage in lewd or lascivious behavior with the intent to sexually arouse the perpetrator or the other person.
- (If applicable), the defendant went to the meeting at or about the arranged time.
Was I Entrapped by the Police?
One of the most common questions I get in these cases was whether or not the defendant was entrapped by law enforcement in a sting case. Answering that question requires a careful analysis of the communications between the defendant and the police. To raise an entrapment defense in California, a jury must believe that a police officer, or someone acting at the direction of a police officer, engaged in conduct that would cause an otherwise law-abiding citizen to commit the crime.
Entrapment can be shown if there is evidence the police harassing the defendant and “wore them down” after the defendant initially declined.
- Was flattery or coaxing used?
- Did the police try to engender sympathy or friendship from the defendant?
- Did the defendant acknowledge that the conduct was illegal and then the police-posing-as-a-minor repeatedly told the defendant that no one would find out and that there was no way to get caught?
The jury instruction for entrapment requires the jury to focus on the conduct of the officer, not the defendant. If the police or a person acting at the police’s direction did nothing more than present an opportunity to commit the offense, through “reasonable and restrained steps,” then there is no entrapment. However, the jury is also allowed to consider what happened before the crime, the communications with the police, and gravity of the offense, and the likelihood that the police would have found out about the offense if it had been committed as intended.
As you can see, this is a highly nuanced defense and requires a thorough evaluation of your case.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Issues
So what can you do if you were not entrapped? This is where the work of a diligent and dedicated criminal defense attorney comes in to play. Even if entrapment is not a defense, in addition to raising every possible factual defense and doing everything we can to make it difficult for the prosecution to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, we need to present a picture of who you are to the District Attorney.
- Was this an isolated occurrence?
- Will this happen again?
- Were you struggling with substance abuse issues at the time of the offense that impaired your judgment?
- Do you suffer from mental illness such as severe depression or bipolar disorder?
- If so, were you medications appropriately adjusted during the time the offense occurred?
- What is your background: social history, employment history, family life?
- What, exactly, was going on in your life that brought you to this moment?
- Are you willing to commit to intensive substance abuse treatment?
- What about intensive psychiatric treatment?
- Are you willing to do what it takes to get yourself to a point where everyone can feel confident that this will not happen again?
Under California law, these are likely not legal defenses that can be presented to the jury, but they can go a long way in helping show the DA who you are and calming the situation down. This almost always requires the defendant’s willingness to submit to a forensic psychological evaluation by a trained forensic psychologist (who works under attorney-client privilege and is not required to show written findings to the DA unless the psychologist testifies at trial). Additionally, there may be a treatment plan that needs to be implemented.
Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Jerod Gunsberg is proud to work with top forensic experts and treatment providers in the field. If a client is willing to put in the work and stick to a treatment plan, Mr. Gunsberg will help them and stand by them every step of the way.
If you or a loved one is facing charges or has been accused of arranging to meet a minor for lewd purposes in LA, Los Angeles County or anywhere in the state of California, do not hesitate to call criminal defense attorney Jerod Gunsberg in Los Angeles at (323) 633-3423 for a free and confidential consultation about your case or get in touch via the secure contact form on this page. Help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.