It Doesn’t Always Take 2 to Tango: How Chatting with Minors through Phone Apps Can Land You in Big Trouble
Parents in Detroit, Mich. had a scare recently when a man allegedly preyed on their 10-year-old daughter through a popular messaging app. According to Fox News in Detroit, Eric and Vaquita Williams’s daughter was using the app called Tango when the incident began.
Tango allows users to exchange messages, videos and pictures with anyone who has downloaded the app. The concerned parents say their daughter began receiving sexually disturbing voice and video messages from a user named “Abiya Aditya Kumar.” After they told him he was messaging a 10-year-old’s phone, he continued sending inappropriate messages.
The parents messaged Kumar through Tango saying, “don’t text this phone again.” Kumar allegedly responded by saying, “Okay baby, I love you.” Afterwards, he continued sending lewd and sexually explicit voice and video messages. Michigan State Police are currently attempting to track down this man.
This case is an example of how apps such as Tango and WhatsApp can be particularly dangerous because you may not know the age of the person you are chatting with. They also make sending sexually explicit materials very easy, which can lead to serious legal consequences.
Harmful Matter Sent with Intent to Seduce a Minor (California Penal Code Section 288.2)
If you know or should have known that a person was a minor and you knowingly sent him or her explicit or obscene matter, you are in violation of California Penal Code Section 288.2. This law prohibits you from sending sexually explicit pictures, videos, texts, or voicemails to someone who is under the age of 18 with:
- The intent of sexually arousing yourself and/or the recipient; and
- The intent of seducing the recipient.3
Under PC 288.2 you cannot send such materials to a minor by any means, including the Internet or your cell phone. This means that using apps like Tango to do so is also illegal.
In order to be convicted, the prosecutor must prove the following four facts in your case:
- You knowingly distributed or offered to send harmful matter to a minor;
- You knew the recipient was a minor and did not try to find out his or her true age;
- You had the specific intent to sexually arouse yourself or the minor; and
- You intended to seduce the minor into a sexual act. (People v. Jensen (2003) 114 Cal.App.4th 224, 239).
If the prosecution is able to prove these four things, you could be facing severe consequences.
Penalties and Punishments for Violating PC 288.2
A violation of California Penal Code Section 288.2 is a “wobbler.” This means that it can be charged either as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the facts of your case and your criminal record.
If you already have been convicted under PC 288.2, your second violation is an automatic felony. A felony conviction for sending harmful matter to a minor with the intent to engage in sexual acts is punishable by:
- 16 months, two, or three years in California State Prison;
- Fines up to $10,000;
- Formal probation; and
- Lifetime registration as a sex offender.4
Registering as a sex offender is a requirement under the Sex Offender Registration Act. If you ever fail to register, it is a felony offense and can lead to more penalties5.
If you are convicted under PC 288.2 as a misdemeanor, you face:
- Up to six months in county jail; and/or
- A $1,000 fine.6
Cyberstalking (California Penal Code Section 646.9)
California Penal Code Section 646.9 deals with harassing or sending unwanted messages specifically through the Internet, text messages, and video messages.2 Using apps like Tango and other social apps to send unwanted sexually explicit texts, photos, or videos to another person can lead to misdemeanor or felony charges under this law.
A misdemeanor sentence for violating PC 646.9 includes up to a year in county jail and fines of up to $1,000. A felony conviction could land you in California state prison for up to five years and require you to pay up to $1,000 in fines7.
Call the Sex Crimes Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
If you are being accused of violating California Penal Code Section 288.2 or 646.9, the consequences will last a lifetime. They can lead to lifetime registration as a sex offender, which will affect your ability to find a job or live where you please. Therefore, it is crucial that you seek guidance from an experienced sex crimes defense attorney who can aggressively defend you. The attorneys at Wallin and Klarich have been successfully defending clients accused of these crimes for over 30 years.
With offices located in Orange County, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Torrance, Riverside, West Covina, Victorville, Ventura, San Diego and Sherman Oaks, one of our skilled and knowledgeable attorneys is certain to be there for you no matter where you live or work.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.
2. [ http://www.myfoxla.com/story/25268683/parents-obscene-texts-videos-sent-to-10-year-old-daughter-via-phone-app#ixzz2zBTL3P6h]↩
7. [ http://law.onecle.com/california/penal/646.9.html]↩