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Name: People v. Shapiro
Case #: G048132
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 07/23/2014
Subsequent History: Review granted 10/22/2014: S220891

Defendant who communicated with out-of-state teenager over the Internet with the intent to seduce her and convince her to masturbate was properly convicted of violating Penal Code section 288.3. Shapiro met Jane Doe in an Internet chat room, falsely told the 14-year-old that he was only a few years older than her, and developed a relationship with her to the point where she thought she was in love with the nonexistent person Shapiro represented himself to be. When she turned 16, the relationship turned sexual. Shapiro was convicted of violating Penal Code section 288.3, which prohibits contacting a minor for the purpose of committing various crimes, including sexual penetration with a person under the age of 18 (Pen. Code, § 289, subd. (h)). On appeal, he challenged his conviction on a number of grounds. Held: Affirmed. The appellate court disagreed with Shapiro’s argument that he did not intend to “participate in an act of sexual penetration” nor engage in the act of causing Doe to penetrate herself. His conduct satisfied the requirements of section 289, subdivision (h) because he used his influence over Doe to inundate her with sexually explicit material, encourage her to masturbate, and engage in cybersex for his own sexual gratification. Applying rules of statutory construction, the court disagreed with Shapiro’s argument that the legislative intent in passing section 288.3 was to only protect California minors. The court also rejected Shapiro’s argument that his conviction violated his right to privacy and his right to free speech, which were premised on the fact that Doe was not a minor under Indiana law. For purposes of California law, she was still a minor and Shapiro could be punished for his act against her. Further, Shapiro’s mistake of law (his belief that Indiana law controlled) is not a defense to section 288.3. The court also concluded that section 288.3 does not violate the equal protection or dormant commerce clauses.