Online solicitation of a minor is a serious crime at both the state and federal level, and both the State of Texas and the feds actively pursue and try those who are so charged. Further, their investigative methods often include sting operations and other highly aggressive approaches, and they are not afraid to pour considerable resources into their efforts. In other words, if you are facing a charge of online solicitation of a minor, the matter is too important not to consult with an experienced San Antonio criminal defense attorney today.
San Antonio Online Solicitation of a Minor: The Law
In the State of Texas, minor refers to anyone who has not yet reached the age of 17 or who credibly represents himself or herself as not yet being 17 years old or whom the defendant believes is younger than 17 years old. For the purposes of the law, sexually explicit refers to any kind of sexual conduct reference. It is important to note that child pornography charges often piggyback with online solicitation of a minor charges. With these definitions in mind, a charge of online solicitation of a minor can be based on the following allegations, which must all be present:
- The defendant is at least 17 years old.
- The defendant’s intention was to sexually arouse or gratify himself or herself.
- The offending communications took place online – via email, text, social media messaging, or some other electronic means.
- The defendant’s intention was sexually explicit communication (that can include materials – such as pictures and videos – and/or language) with a minor or the provision of such materials to a minor.
Online solicitation of a minor charges can also be based on the allegation of knowingly soliciting a minor to meet with another person for a directly sexual purpose.
Penalties for the Online Solicitation of a Minor
The charge of online solicitation of a minor is usually brought as a third-degree felony. If, however, the minor in question has not yet reached the age of 14 (or is believed by the accused to be younger than 14), the charge is elevated to a second-degree felony. The time spent behind bars, the fines, and the social consequences of a conviction for online solicitation of a minor can be life-altering. Consider all of the following:
- If you are facing a third-degree felony charge, you are looking at from 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- If you are facing a second-degree felony charge, you are looking at from 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Anyone convicted of online solicitation of a minor in Texas will be required to register as a sex offender, which can severely limit where you can work or live. In addition, as the sex offender registry is available to the general public, registration as a sex offender can have a significant impact on your personal relationships and reputation in your community.
Defenses for Charges of Online Solicitation of a Minor
The Texas statute that addresses online solicitation is extremely broad, and as such, it is the subject of ongoing challenges related to constitutionality. Compelling and credible defenses for charges of solicitation, including the online solicitation of a minor, tend to focus on the constitutionality of the statute itself or on the constitutionality of the statute’s application to the individual charges at hand.
The major issue is that the statute does not account for dismissing factors that demonstrate there was no actual intention of soliciting the minor. For example, none of the following are considered valid defenses under the law:
- A meeting between the defendant and the minor (or presumed minor) never occurred.
- The defendant never intended for the meeting with the minor (or presumed minor) to occur.
- During the commission of the alleged solicitation offense, the defendant was engaged in a fantasy.
The intention inherent to the broad language of the solicitation statute is to allow law enforcement to detain sexual predators during the grooming process – before they move forward with harming the children involved. The sweeping language of the statute, however, allows prosecutors to use extraordinary measures, including sting operations that can ensnare innocent parties.
The strongest defense strategies often focus on the validity of the investigation itself while highlighting the defendant’s lack of intention – or even involvement. If you are facing charges related to the online solicitation of a minor, you need a criminal defense attorney to craft a defense on your behalf.
Do Not Delay Consulting with an Experienced San Antonio Criminal Defense Attorney
Charges related to the online solicitation of a minor are serious charges that require serious legal representation. Patrick Hancock at the Law Offices of Patrick L. Hancock in San Antonio is an experienced criminal defense lawyer with more than 30 years of experience successfully championing the constitutional rights of clients like you.
Mr. Hancock is committed to upholding your rights and to aggressively advocating for your most favorable case resolution. We’re here to help, so please do not hesitate to contact or call us at 210-223-8844 for more information today.