Online Solicitation of a Minor
Online Solicitation of a Minor
Crimes against children inspire public anger and revulsion. This is why anyone found guilty of online solicitation of a minor faces devastating penalties, even if all conversations take place over the Internet and there is no actual meeting. You could lose your job, your home, your family, and be forced to register as a sex offender. With so much at stake, you should never face these charges without a skilled criminal defense attorney.
The criminal defense lawyers at Hunter, Lane & Jampala PLLC understand what you’re up against. We also know how law enforcement operates, especially when it comes to crimes involving children. Their investigations can be overzealous and they often make unsupported assumptions. Our skilled defense attorneys will protect your rights by mounting an equally vigorous defense.
What is Online Solicitation of a Minor?
Online solicitation of a minor is illegal at both federal and state levels. To find and engage sexual predators, police personnel often pose as minors in chat rooms and on social networking sites. Sexually explicit online communication, whether by chat room, email, or instant messaging, could lead to a solicitation charge.
Federal Online Minor Solicitation Charges
According to 18 U.S.C. 2422, you can be charged with soliciting a minor online even if you don’t have physical contact with them. It is illegal to use the Internet to knowingly coerce, entice, induce or persuade anyone under the age of 18 to engage in prostitution or any sexual activity. The same statute makes it illegal to:
- Persuade, induce, entice, or coerce a minor to cross or attempt to cross state lines to meet you OR;
- Travel across state lines to meet the minor for sexual purposes
Federal sentencing guidelines can be harsh. If you are convicted of using the Internet to solicit to try to solicit a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity, you face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in a federal prison. The same sentence applies if you succeed in transporting a child for the same purposes.
If you travel across state lines or come to the United States to engage in ‘illicit sexual activity’ with a minor, you can spend up to 40 years in prison if convicted. Federal law specifically defines illicit sexual activity as sexual acts with someone under the age of 18. This definition includes trafficking children for sex purposes and if the child in question is under 14 years old, the punishment is 15 years to life in a federal prison. With trafficking charges, the government does not have to prove you knew that the child was under 18 years old.
Once you are released from prison, you are required to register as a sex offender with the local law enforcement agency in the city or county of the state in which you were paroled. In addition, you may have to register with the federal government as a sex offender for life. With a conviction bearing these types of consequences, don’t face charges of online solicitation of a minor without retaining a criminal defense lawyer first.
State Charges for Online Solicitation of a Minor
Texas Penal Code Sec. 33.021 defines this offense as knowingly reaching out to a minor online with the intent of meeting them in person and engaging in sexual activity. (In Texas, a minor is anyone under the age of 17.) You can also be charged with online solicitation if you engage in explicit conversions or exchange explicit photos without any discussion of meeting in person.
In Texas, online solicitation of a minor is charged as a third-degree felony. If convicted, you could spend two to 10 years in prison and be fined up to $10,000. If the minor you allegedly solicited was under 14, the crime is escalated to a second-degree felony, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
What to Do If You Are Arrested
If you’ve been arrested, do not make a statement to law enforcement. Be polite, but let them know that you won’t be saying anything about the charges until you’ve spoken to a criminal defense lawyer.
Your lawyer will listen to your story, evaluate the evidence against you, and negotiate with the prosecution for the best outcome. In cases where the evidence is especially fragile, it may be possible to get the charges dropped. If your case does proceed, a skilled defense attorney can fight to protect your future by hiring expert witnesses, throwing a question mark over your intent during the online communications, or negotiating a conclusion that lets you avoid jail time or sex offender registration.
While no outcome is guaranteed in a criminal proceeding, working with a criminal defense attorney gives you the best chance of successfully proving your innocence or putting a serious mistake behind you.
Defenses For Online Solicitation of a Minor
If the U.S. Attorney proceeds against you for online minor solicitation, there are certain defenses that may apply to your case. They include but are not limited to:
- False Accusation: You did not actually commit the crime. For example, parents or police may have pressured the minor into making a false allegation. A third party may also have been using your computer, email, screen name, or IP address in order to avoid detection.
- Entrapment: Undercover law enforcement officers coerced or harassed you into soliciting a minor. As a result, you committed a crime that you otherwise would not have done.
- Belief of Age: You must present evidence demonstrating that you reasonably believed the person you were soliciting was at least 18 years old. It should be noted that this defense won’t apply if your intentions allegedly involved prostitution.
Texas law recognizes two statutory defenses for online solicitation of a minor. They are as follows:
- You are married to the minor
- You are less than three years older than the minor and the communications were consensual
If neither of these apply to your situation, there are other common defenses you can use.
- You may be able to claim entrapment if your charges arose from a police sting operation.
- If you honestly didn’t know the person you were talking to was a minor, you can present the defense that you did not intentionally solicit anyone under age.
- You never intended to meet the alleged minor. In Texas, your communications are illegal only if you actually meant to commit a criminal offense, such as meet and have sex with a person you knew or had reason to know was under age.
Your child solicitation lawyer at Hunter, Lane & Jampala PLLC will present the most compelling defense for your case. We know how juries can be quick to convict individuals charged with child sex crimes due to their shocking nature, and will present your defense in a way that helps them understand your side of the story.
Why Hire Hunter, Lane, & Jampala to Defend You?
If you are being charged with online solicitation of a minor in Texas, it is critical that you contact a criminal lawyer who knows how to successfully defend these types of charges. At Hunter, Lane & Jampala PLLC, we have years of experience representing clients in state and federal courts, including those accused of child sex offenses. Our goal is always to preserve your dignity and protect your rights at all stages.
If you were arrested in an Internet sting in San Antonio, we can determine whether entrapment is a viable defense. Whatever the circumstances, we will examine all elements of your case to create a defense initiative that can lead to withdrawn or reduced charges, mitigated penalties, dismissal, or acquittal. Should a conviction result, your San Antonio defense lawyer can plea for favorable sentencing terms and even appeal the conviction if warranted. No matter what you’ve been charged with, we can help you navigate this difficult area of the law.
Charged with Online Solicitation of a Minor in San Antonio? Get a Free Consultation From a Criminal Defense Attorney Now!
Thanks to media coverage, those accused of online minor solicitation face intense prejudice and severe consequences even before they’ve had their day in court. At Hunter, Lane & Jampala PLLC, we believe that early intervention by an experienced criminal defense team can make a difference in how your case resolves. If you’ve been arrested or think you are about to be, call (866) 358-2235 for a free initial consultation or contact us online. Our team in San Antonio is ready to provide you with the strong and seasoned defense counsel that you deserve.