How To Defend Against Online Sex Crime Charges in California
There are an increasing wide range of sex crimes committed online. In response, law enforcement agencies are modifying their techniques to investigate suspects who engage in illegal online sexual-related activity.
In California, there are many numerous statutes covering different types of online sex crime charges, such as:
- Penal Code 311 PC – child pornography,
- Penal Code 288. 2 – sending harmful material to a minor,
- Penal Code 288.4 PC – arrange meeting with minor for lewd purposes,
- Penal Code 272 PC – contribute to delinquency of minor,
- Penal Code 647(j)(4) PC – revenge porn,
- Sexting under child porn laws.
Other crimes, like pimping and prostitution, involve the transactional use or proposition of another.
Just as the nature and location of sex crimes vary, so too, do the victim populations they target. Some sex crimes involve vulnerable adults, while others involve children.
That sex crimes are so many and varied attests to both the power of human sexual drive and the harm its illicit use causes its victims.
Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are providing readers a more detailed review below.
The Hazard of Online Sex Crimes
One might think that sex crimes generally require doing more than making a few simple computer keystrokes, entirely in one's own virtual privacy.
Thinking so is risky and wrong. Some serious sex crimes involve purely online activity--if you will, virtual sex crimes.
Online sex crimes recognize that surfing the internet for sexual stimulation is not a victimless activity.
Sex scenes, pornographic or not, require sex participants, persons who are often not consenting adults but instead coerced victims, always so when the participants are children.
That grave concern for victims, not only the harmful effect on the internet surfer, is why federal and state laws criminalize certain sexual content online.
Internet sex trafficking
Media reports that the internet has been a boon to the sex trafficking industry, contributing to the nearly five-million sex trafficking victims worldwide, nearly one million of whom are children.
The concern for victims is also why federal and state authorities routinely engage in sting operations using all sorts of social media platforms and fabricated websites for popular search engines to discover.
Child Pornography Charges – Penal Code 311.11
Child pornography is the poster online sex crime. California Penal Code 311.11 PC criminalizes possession, sending, transporting, duplication, exchanging of child pornography.
As we will see, not just obscenity but any depiction of a child engaging in or simulating a sexual act.
The statute's operative subsection (a) clearly defines possession to include all usual, and many antiquated or unusual, forms of online activity:
- “Anyone who knowingly possesses any matter, information, or image, including film, photograph, negative, slide, videotape, computer hardware, CD-ROM, that contains any film which involves knowingly using a minor under 18 engaging in or simulating sexual conduct, is guilty of a felony crime punishable by time is county jail or state prison.”
Selling, storing, or transmitting child pornography
California child pornography statute Penal Code 311.11 criminalizes even broader conduct than virtual viewing of the defined material when it also reaches the material's
One who does not just view child pornography also commits a crime when they:
- sell, or
- transmits it.
PC 311.11 also expressly states in its subsection (d) that: “It is not necessary to prove that the matter is obscene to establish a violation of this section.”
Other Online Sex Crimes
Child pornography online is by no means the only online sex crime that prosecutors may charge.
There are other types of sex crimes that could potentially occur online, such as:
- Penal Code 266i PC – pandering,
- Penal Code 288 PC – lewd conduct with a minor,
- 18 U.S.C. § 2251 – sexual exploitation of children,
- 18 U.S.C. § 2252 – federal child pornography,
We all know that federal and state investigators routinely pose unidentified in person to catch a suspect in a sex crime.
But make no mistake: they also routinely troll the internet for the same purpose. Popularized by the “To Catch a Predator” reality television show, police sting operations, both in-person and online, use the largest search engines and social media platforms to catch their targets.
How Can I Fight Online Sex Crime Charges?
Given the severe penalties and enormous collateral consequences of sex crimes, including especially sex offender registration, anyone charged with any form of state or federal sex crime should get help from our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers.
A first defense can be that the defendant did not commit the charged crime, but there are a wide range of strategies to fight the charges.
Lack of knowledge argument
For example, child pornography statutes like California PC 311.11 require that the defendant knows they were in possession or control of child pornography.
Innocent search results can produce implicating sex crime evidence.
Likewise, another's use of one's computer can make it appear that the computer's owner has made the illegal use.
Remember that a charge is not a conviction and that prosecutors must prove every element of a sex crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Perhaps we can argue you were not aware that you had possession of the child porn.
After a close review of the prosecutor's evidence, there are also a wide range of other defense strategies, such as:
- entrapment of an innocent suspect through overreaching sting operations;
- unreasonable search and seizure of electronic equipment and storage;
- violations of the rights to counsel and against self-incrimination;
- that the conduct of children or others depicted was not sexual in nature;
- that any conduct was consensual as law permits;
- that the charge qualifies for mental-health diversion resulting in dismissal;
- investigator or prosecutor misconduct withholding exonerating evidence;
- alteration or fabrication of evidence; and
- gaps in the chain of custody of critical evidence.
Best Defense for California Online Sex Crime Charges
If you are under investigation, or already arrested for an online sexual related crime, you will need an experienced criminal attorney with the skill to successfully defend and defeat the charge, negotiate an appropriate diversion, or plea agreement.
You might also need an attorney to seek a bail reduction to gain freedom pending trial and sex offender registration challenges to ensure reasonable privacy.
Our law firm handles all sex crime charge issues and we have the trail victories to prove success in even the most serious cases.
It might be possible to negotiate with the prosecutor to avoid the formal filing of charges before court, which is commonly known as prefiling intervention.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a nationally recognized criminal defense law firm serving clients in Southern California, including Los Angeles County, Orange County, Ventura County, Riverside, and San Bernardino.
Our firm is located at 1999 Avenue of the Stars, 11th Fl., Los Angeles, CA 90067.
Our main office is in the San Fernando Valley next to the Van Nuys Superior Court at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401.
Contact our office for an initial consultation at (877) 781-1570.