Is it legal to meet a teenager whom you meet online for a movie or food in a public place if you are 30 years old?

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Is it legal to meet a teenager whom you meet online for a movie or food in a public place if you are 30 years old?

I was browsing chat rooms and started talking to a girl who turned out to be 14. That was 3-4 months ago. For some reason we kept in touch and now she wants to meet to see a movie or grab some food. Would it be legal for me to meet her? I have absolutely no other intentions, but she mentioned that her parents died and she lives with her grandparents. So I feel compelled to do something nice for her, but I am worried how it may look so I am seeking a legal advice.

Asked on January 25, 2011 under Criminal Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Is it *legal* to simply meet a teenager? Arguably or technically yes, though this is an incredibly dangerous thing to do. If the girl has the wrong idea, the grandparents form the wrong impression, or even some other third party gets the wrong idea (e.g. someone who sees you with her at the movie, food court, etc. and calls the police), you could find yourself arrested or prosecuted for sexual abuse. The consequences of that would be devasting and even if your intentions are pure, the likelihood of a misunderstanding and the difficulty of exonerating yourself are immense. Any suggestion, even the faintest, of impropriety could bring the full weight of the legal system down on you...and don't forget, this "girl," could be a 30-year old cop conducting a sting.

If you want to help teenagers, there are many organizations or charities you can volunteer time or donate money to in a safe and structured way. That the way to give vent to charitable impulses.


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