You can be arrested and prosecuted for serious sex crimes just for role-playing on the Internet. Hello, I am Patrick Clancy Innocence Legal Team Founder and Chief Strategist.
If you have been arrested or are under investigation for attempting to arrange a meeting with or sending “harmful matter” to a minor for a sexual purpose, or attempting to do so, you need the best legal help available. The Innocence Legal Team has been defending people against such prosecutions for almost as long as there has been an internet.
The California legislature has enacted legislation enabling decoys to snare hundreds if not thousands of innocent individuals who had no intention of meeting a minor. Meaning no actual minors were involved at all.
Attempted Child Molestation (Penal Code § 664/288(a))
Because no minor is actually involved, it is factually impossible to be accused of child molestation. But, factual impossibility is not a defense to an attempt. How serious is this? In the State of California, “attempt” crimes carries one half of the sentence for the underlying offense
Lewd acts with a minor under the age of fourteen years (Penal Code § 288(a)) carries a sentence of eight years in prison; therefore, attempted lewd acts with a minor under the age of fourteen carries four years in the state prison. Further, the defendant, if convicted, must register as a sex offender every time he/she moves and on his/her birthday for the remainder of his/her life. More often if transient.
[Harmful Matter (Penal Code § 288.2)/Child Pornography or Sexual Exploitation of a Child (Penal Code § 311.3)]
During these “sting chats” between police decoys posing as minors, a suspect may engage in “cyber sex” role-playing. For such conversations, a suspect can be charged with attempting to “send” harmful matter to a minor. The law would not normally consider a conversation, written or verbal, to be “matter” at all. But prosecutors have successfully argued that such conversations represent a transfer of electronic information and that it indeed does constitute “matter” and therefore “harmful matter.” Courts have consistently refused to extend First Amendment free speech protection to such interactions. Punishment for a first offense can be imprisonment for up to one year in county jail, and fine of $1,000. Subsequent offenses carry a maximum three-year sentence. However, prosecutors can charge separately for each interaction leading to lengthy sentences.
Police decoy minors will also generally ask suspects to send images which can also be considered “harmful matter.” These requests can escalate with the decoy requesting more and more explicit photographs depicting nudity and sex acts involving minors. Transmitting such images may constitute child pornography and also lead to charges of child exploitation. If tried as a felony, a child pornography conviction sentence will range between 16 months and 8 years. Fines can go as high as $100,000.
Conviction for any of these offenses requires registration as a sex offender which is accessible to the public. This can cause loss of your reputation and career.
The Innocence Legal Team has long experience in dealing with, and winning, just such cases.