For a violation of Penal Code section 288.3, subdivision (a) (contacting a minor with knowledge and intent to commit a sexual offense) the person contacted need not be a minor if the defendant believed the person was a minor. Defendant exchanged sexually explicit messages over the course of several months with a law enforcement agent who the defendant believed was a 13- or 14-year-old girl. He was arrested at a restaurant where he had arranged to meet the girl. Among other crimes, he was convicted of contacting or attempting to contact a minor with knowledge and intent to commit a specified sexual offense (Pen. Code, § 288.3, subd. (a)). On appeal, defendant argued there was insufficient evidence to support this conviction because the person he contacted was not, in fact, a minor. Held: Affirmed. To establish a violation of section 288.3, subdivision (a), a prosecutor must prove a defendant (1) directly or indirectly communicated with or attempted to communicate with a person, (2) with the intent to commit an enumerated offense involving the person, and (3) knew or reasonably should have known the person was under the age of 18. Under this statute, an attempt to communicate with a minor is a completed crime. The knowledge requirement of the statute focuses on the knowledge and intent of the offender by ensuring the offense does not impose strict liability upon someone who does not know or has no reason to know the person with whom he or she is communicating or attempting to communicate is a minor. It does not actually require a minor victim. This interpretation is consistent with the purpose of the statute, which is to support undercover law enforcement officers in their efforts to identify, deter, and punish Internet predators who attempt to sexually victimize children. In this case, defendant had ample reason to know he was communicating with a minor, though he was wrong. There was substantial evidence to support his conviction.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/archive/D073830.PDF