I Was Caught Soliciting a Minor Online. Can I Avoid Doing Jail Time?
Take care not to get yourself in trouble while surfing the Internet. Solicitation of a minor is a serious criminal offense in the state of Texas. Not only is the Internet being monitored by law enforcement officials, you can easily get caught up in a sophisticated sting operation. Undercover officers often pose as minor children to implicate online offenders.
According to the Texas Penal Code, a minor is defined as any person that meets one of the following criteria:
- Any person that represents themselves as being under the age of 17 when the crime was committed
- Any person that the defendant believed was under the age of 17 when the crime was committed
Under Texas law, it is no longer feasible for a defendant to claim that they didn’t intend to follow through with an online solicitation. An online solicitation is punishable by a 3rd degree felony, but the charge can be enhanced to a 2nd degree felony if the alleged victim was under the age of 14. The prosecution must prove that the defendant believed the victim was under the age of 14 or that the victim represented themselves as being less than 14 years of age.
The prosecution must prove an online solicitation charge beyond all reasonable doubt. The following legal standards will apply in such cases:
- The defendant was 17 or older when the crime was committed
- The defendant intended to arouse the sexual desire of the victim
- The crime was committed by the defendant while using the Internet
If it can be shown that a defendant intended to arouse the sexual desire of a minor child while using a commercial or electronic messaging service, the available penalties are severe. It is also illegal to distribute or transmit sexually explicit material to a minor child on the Internet. The penalty for an online solicitation conviction can also be enhanced to a 2nd degree felony if the defendant has been charged with any other criminal offense.
Online Solicitation Defense
One of the following defense strategies may be available to an online solicitation defendant:
- The defendant was no more than three years older than the alleged victim and the minor child consented to the behavior described in the criminal charge
- The defendant and minor child were legally married when the crime was committed
The expectation that a minor child will engage in sexual contact is grounds for filing criminal charges. Yet online solicitation charges often come about because of entrapment or a simple mistake. Many online solicitation defendants believed that they were actually communicating with an adult at the time the crime was allegedly committed. Every case is unique and must be thoroughly investigated to protect the legal rights of the defendant.