Solicitation of a Minor - Texas Felony Crime Lawyers
Solicitation and Online Solicitation of a Minor
Both prosecutors and the public take a harsh stance on crimes involving minors. Even though you are innocent until proven guilty, the police and state’s attorney may take such a hard line during questioning that you feel you have no choice but to plead guilty.
No one can blame you for feeling trapped and afraid for your future. Solicitation of a minor, like child pornography charges and trafficking of minors, is such an inflammatory offense that even a baseless accusation or misunderstanding can ruin your reputation forever.
The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Hunter, Lane & Jampala PLLC provide strong legal representation for individuals accused of solicitation of a minor in San Antonio and across the state of Texas. We know that the immediate consequences of an allegation (social stigma and public condemnation) and the long-term consequences of a conviction (fines, prison time, and possibly entry in a sex offender registry) can cause you and your family severe anxiety and stress. That’s why we’re ready to fight for your rights and your freedom.
Solicitation of a Minor Laws in Texas
There are two laws in Texas that address solicitation of a minor: they are as follows:
- Criminal Solicitation of a Minor
- Online Solicitation of a Minor
Criminal Solicitation of a Minor
This offense occurs when someone knowingly induces or attempts to induce a minor under 17 years of age to commit or be a party to the commission of what’s known as a ‘3g offense.’ These crimes are so named because they formerly appeared in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure 42.12(3)(g). They include serious offenses such as drug crimes, kidnapping, murder, and sexual assault.
Even if the minor you allegedly solicited was not criminally responsible for the offense they committed or acquitted at trial, you can still be charged with the commission of this offense. With so much hanging in the balance, you should retain a criminal defense lawyer the moment you are arrested.
Defenses to a Charge of Criminal Solicitation of a Minor
Texas law recognizes a specific defense for criminal solicitation of a minor. You may not be convicted on the minor’s uncorroborated testimony unless circumstances strongly indicate that solicitation did occur and you intended for the minor to act on it.
Online Solicitation of a Minor
Criminal Solication often takes place in person but Texas law also prohibits a person over the age of 17 from communicating in a sexually explicit manner to a minor or distributing explicit material to a minor via the Internet or other electronic means. Common examples include sending explicit photos via text or actively suggesting a meeting for sexual purposes. In order to prove such an offense, the state must also establish the actor’s intent to engage in sexual activity with the child.
Additionally, the law prohibits online or electronic solicitation of minors with the intention of engaging in sexual contact with the actor or a third party. This law has changed significantly over the past decade, largely because of concerns surrounding whether or not it is constitutional.
A child enticement or solicitation charge can be brought even if there is no physical contact or no meeting. In fact, online solicitation charges are commonly brought following a chat between a defendant and a police officer posing as a child. This type of sting operation is a tactic popularized by the TV show ‘To Catch a Predator.’ The state’s attorney will try to prove intent using the transcripts of these conversations.
Child sex crimes like online solicitation of a minor are complex cases, often involving computer forensics, free speech and constitutional law concerns, and questions surrounding the law of entrapment. If you are facing sex crime charges in Texas, please contact the skilled sex crime defense attorneys at Hunter, Lane & Jampala PLLC.
Defenses to a Charge of Online Solicitation of a Minor
At present, there are only two statutory defenses to a solicitation of a minor charge:
- The minor is your spouse and was married to you at the time of the alleged sexual activity
- The minor is less than three years younger than yourself and they consented to the activity.
Even if neither of these affirmative defenses apply to you, it’s still possible to successfully challenge the charges.
Entrapment by Law Enforcement Officer
Perhaps you were a victim of entrapment, meaning that as part of a sting operation, law enforcement forced you to commit a crime you wouldn’t have otherwise committed.
In order to raise an entrapment defense, you must first admit that you committed the crime and then prove that the law enforcement agent posing as a minor used unconscionable strategies to force you into committing the crime. (However, if all the agent did was make it possible to commit the crime, and they can prove that you were predisposed to commit it, then there was no entrapment.)
You could also be a victim of mistaken identity: this common defense could apply if you borrowed the actual offender’s computer or used an electronic device connected to their Wi-Fi signal. Even a wrongful accusation can be devastating, however, so it’s important to fight the charges quickly.
When accused of sexual conduct involving a minor, you need a qualified criminal defense lawyer to help you fight these criminal charges. In addition to protecting your rights and helping restore your reputation, our experienced team can make sure you are supported during this difficult time.
What are the Potential Penalties for Solicitation of a Minor?
If you are convicted of criminal solicitation of a minor, the offense is generally prosecuted as one category lower than the solicited offense. For example, if you allegedly persuade a minor to sell cocaine on the street and they are found with three grams in their possession, the crime itself is a second-degree felony. This means that you could be charged with a state jail felony, which is a degree lower, unless:
- You are 17 years of age or older and a member of a criminal street gang and;
- You committed the offense to further the gang’s criminal activities or evade detection as a gang member
With regards to online solicitation of a minor, an adult over the age of 17 who solicits a minor to engage in sexual activity – with the adult or with another person – can be charged with a second-degree felony. A second-degree felony conviction in this state is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Sending sexually explicit material over the Internet to a minor is a third-degree felony punishable by a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a $10,000 fine. If the minor is under the age of 14 – or if the adult believes the recipient is under the age of 14 – the offense becomes a second-degree felony.
Individuals convicted of sex crimes will also need to register as sex offenders, regardless of whether they plead guilty or no contest. We will provide you with legal advice and representation intended to prevent these harsh penalties.
What if I Never Intended to Meet the Person I Was Talking to Online?
At one time, the statute stated that it was not a legal defense that you never intended to meet the person. That provision was repealed by the legislature in September 2015. At present, your communications are a criminal offense only if you intend to commit the alleged activity, such as engage in sexual intercourse with a minor.
Your child solicitation lawyer can help you fight allegations of criminal solicitation by presenting evidence that you never intended to meet the actual or purported minor. We will advise you whether lack of intent may be a strong defense for your case.
What If I Never Actually Met The Person I Talked to Online?
Texas law specifically states that not meeting the minor is not a legal defense. In this case, the law is concerned with the act of communication rather than the end result. The recent changes to the law did not repeal this provision, unlike the one regarding criminal intent (see above).
If law enforcement insists that you intended to commit sexual activity with a minor but never followed through, our sex crimes defense attorneys will carry out a careful investigation that may prove that you don’t meet the required standard for criminal intent.
Contact a San Antonio Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Regardless of what sex offense you are accused of committing, you can count on Hunter, Lane & Jampala PLLC to treat you with respect, handle the details of your case with as much confidentiality as possible, and explore all potential means of defending the accusation. Our goal is to preserve your reputation and defend your future. Call (866) 358-2235 today for a free consultation or contact us online.