Facing a sex crime is scary, but the stakes become higher when a minor is involved. A conviction for a sex crime involving minors, such as online solicitation, will have life-altering consequences. It impacts your personal life, your professional life, where you live, and how your community perceives you. Moreover, a conviction can lead to substantial jail time and steep financial penalties.
The surprising fact about this offense is that the police can still arrest you and charge you with online solicitation of a minor despite not having actual contact with a child. Most online solicitation charges are from undercover officers posing as minors in online sting operations to lure in suspects.
Online Solicitation of a Minor
Under Texas law, this offense occurs when an adult deliberately communicates with a minor in a sexually explicit way or distributes sexually explicit content and material via the internet or other electronic messaging service like text.
The law defines sexually explicit material as videos, photos, words, or other communication about or describing some sexual activity. You can also commit the offense by knowingly using the internet or electronic messaging services to solicit minors to meet to engage in sexual activity.
Online Solicitation of a Minor: The Texas Penal Code
The Texas Penal Code covers online criminal solicitation of minors under section 33.021. It defines a minor as anybody younger than 17 years old or the defendant reasonably believes is less than 17 years old. The penal code further differentiates crimes against minors younger than 14 years old.
- Under section 33.021(b): A person commits the offense if they use the internet or electronic messaging service to communicate with a minor in a sexually explicit manner or distribute sexually explicit content.
- Under section 33.021(c): A person commits the offense using the internet or an electronic messaging service to knowingly solicit minors to meet to engage in sexual intercourse, sexual contact, or deviate sexual intercourse.
Under section 43.25(b), the Penal Code defines sexually explicit as language, communication, materials, videos, and photographs, describing or related to sexual conduct. Section 21.01(3) of the Penal Code further defines the terms sexual intercourse, sexual contact, and deviate sexual intercourse in relation to statute 33.021.
Online Solicitation of a Minor: Criminal Penalties
Texas state law defines the online solicitation of a minor as a 3rd-degree felony. It has severe penalties for offenses involving minors, which it defines as persons under 17 years. The punishment upon conviction is a fine of $10,000, a state prison sentence of two to ten years, and registering as a sex offender.
The punishment is severe if the minor in question is below 14 years; in this case, the crime becomes a 2nd-degree felony offense. The penalty upon conviction is a $10,000 fine, a state prison sentence of two to 20 years, and registering as a sex offender.
What to Do If Charged with Online Solicitation of a Minor
If you’re arrested and charged with the online solicitation of a minor, remain silent and contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. Do not answer police questions without your lawyer present. An experienced sex crimes defense attorney will help you:
- Assess the evidence the police have gathered against you to find the best defense strategy
- Negotiate with the prosecution if needed
- Represent you in court and throughout the entire legal process
- Help you get the best outcome
Possible Defense Strategies
Often, overzealous police officers sweep up people in online sting operations to fill quotas, which sometimes leads to the arrest of people not guilty of the crime. Hence, due to the severe nature of these charges, it’s essential to contact a sex crime defense lawyer to help your loved one or protect your legal rights.
A person accused of online solicitation of minors can use one of the following possible defenses to beat the charges:
- If the accused is married to the minor in question or was married to them when they committed the offense
- If the minor is not over three years younger than the defendant and consented to the sexual activity in question. The challenge of this defense lies in trying to address consent, which is where a skilled, experienced attorney can help
- The accused can claim entrapment if a law officer induced them to engage in the criminal offense and would have otherwise not done so. This defense is also complicated because it involves objective and subjective qualifications, even in clear-cut cases
- The misidentification of the alleged offender by law enforcement, which could happen if someone else used their computer or connected to their Wi-Fi signal
The following defense strategies do not quality under subsection (C):
- The defendant had no intention of meeting the minor
- The meeting between the defendant and the minor never occurred
- The defendant was fantasizing when committing the offense
The Legal Process: What to Expect
Under the Texas Penal Code Section 33.021(b), the state’s prosecutor must prove the criminal elements of the online solicitation of a minor offense beyond all reasonable doubt. They must prove that:
- The defendant is 17 years or younger
- Their actions intended to arouse or gratify the sexual desire
- They acted over the internet, via a commercial online service, or by text message, electronic mail, or another similar message system
- Their actions were intentional
- They communicated in a sexually explicit manner with the minor
- They distributed sexually explicit material to the minor
Why Hire a Sex Crimes Defense Attorney?
Many criminal defense attorneys don’t have the skill and trial experience needed to handle cases involving sex crimes, let alone offenses involving minors. The right sex crime defense lawyer should be aggressive, caring, understanding, and experienced. Kent Starr embodies all these qualities and has an unmatched passion for justice.
Kent makes his clients comfortable despite the severe nature of their criminal charges and creates an objective view of each case to provide the best defense possible. Contact us today if you or a loved one stands accused of online solicitation of a minor for a complimentary strategy session.