The internet has allowed communication to be easier than ever before. If you have found yourself acting inappropriately towards a minor online, you may be faced with online solicitation charges. It is important to understand the laws regarding online solicitation of a minor, as well as what you should do to begin preparing a defense.
According to Texas Penal Code Sec. 33.021., online solicitation of a minor is defined as:
“A person commits an offense if the person, over the Internet, by electronic mail or text message or other electronic message service or system, or through a commercial online service, knowingly solicits a minor to meet another person, including the actor, with the intent that the minor will engage in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with the actor or another person.”
Essentially, if an individual knowingly reaches out to a minor online with the intent of meeting in person and engaging in sexual activity, it is considered solicitation. A minor is considered to be anyone under age 17.
Texas Law also states that exchanging sexually explicit material and engaging in explicit conversations qualify as online solicitation, even if there was no discussion of meeting in person.
Penalties for Online Solicitation Of A Minor
This charge is punished as a third-degree felony. However, it can be increased to a second-degree felony if the minor was under 14 years old.
In Texas, third-degree felonies are punishable by:
- Two to ten years in prison
- A fine of up to $10,000
Second-degree felony penalties are raised to:
- Two to twenty years in prison
- A fine of up to $10,000
If you are convicted of online solicitation of a minor, you are also required to register as a sex offender.
What To Do After Arrest
It is clear that the penalties for online solicitation of a minor are serious, and you will need to immediately begin building a strong defense.
Contact an Attorney
One of the first things, if not the first thing, you should do is contact a criminal defense attorney. A criminal defense attorney has experience in the courtroom and can help you understand how to best fight your charge.
Juries can be quick to prosecute individuals charged with sex crimes because of their shocking nature. Criminal defense attorneys have experience handling this and can present your defense in a way that encourages jurors to understand your side of the story.
"Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” This does not just mean at the time of your arrest. Keep the details of your case offline. By continuing to engage online, you put yourself at risk of weakening your case.
Check through your message records and keep anything that can help your case. This is also something a defense attorney will assist you with, as it is unlikely you will be able to locate everything you may need.
Take note of any incriminating evidence as well. Your lawyer can review this and be prepared to defend it in court if necessary.
Defenses For Online Solicitation Of A Minor
Texas Law clarifies two defenses that allow for legal sexual interactions with a minor online.
- If the minor is married to the defendant
- If the defendant is less than three years older than the minor, and the exchanges were consensual
If neither of these explain your situation, there are other common defenses you can use.
Some online solicitation of a minor charges come as a result of a police sting operation. In these cases, the police pose as a minor online and begin chatting with adults. Using the entrapment defense, you can argue that you would not have committed the crime in a normal situation. However, this is a very complicated defense and you must be able to prove the police initiated the inappropriate contact.
You Were Unaware of The Minor’s Real Age
Another possible defense is explaining that you were unaware the person you were talking to was a minor. On the internet, people are able to take on any identity they choose. If you were under the assumption that the minor was of consenting age, you did not intentionally solicit a minor.
Texas Sex Crimes Attorneys
There is a lot at stake if you are facing an online solicitation of a minor charge. At The Law Offices of Jed Silverman, we have extensive experience successfully handling sex crime cases. We will fight aggressively to defend your rights and protect your future.