Have You Been Accused of Soliciting Minors Online?Published: Oct 16, 2018 in Sex Crimes, Sex Crimes Involving Children
Few crimes carry the stigma of soliciting minors online. If you have been accused of engaging in this type of sexual contact with a minor, you stand to lose everything, including your reputation, your job, your friends, your freedom, and even your family. Additionally, the penalties resulting from a conviction for this felony offense are extremely harsh. For this reason, it’s essential that you act fast and retain the services of an experienced Houston child sex crimes attorney who can help clear your name before it’s too late.
To schedule a free, initial evaluation of your case, contact The Law Offices of Ned Barnett today at (713) 222-6767, or reach out via our online form.
The Police are Posing as Teens on Social Media
Most charges for online solicitation of a minor stem from sting operations set up by law enforcement. The police will pose as a teen on social media and wait to be contacted by an adult. The officer nurtures the online relationship, while being careful not to bring up sex first. Once the suspect starts sending or requesting nude photos, or writing sexually explicit messages, the police will suggest a face-to-face meeting and make the arrest.
In other situations, a minor will report to a family member or authority figure that they have received sexually explicit messages from an adult. Even if the minor has willfully exchanged messages with the suspect, they may have a change of heart and decide to put an end to the online relationship. The suspect is often not a stranger from the internet, but someone who knows the minor and their family in real life. They could be employees of the teen’s school, church, or sports team. This makes it easier for the police to find and arrest the suspect.
What is the Law on Soliciting Minors Online?
The state of Texas considers soliciting minors online a criminal offense. Under Texas Penal Code Section 33.021, online solicitation of a minor occurs when someone over the age of 17 contacts someone who is under the age of 17, or who they believe to be under the age of 17, by phone or via the computer. To be charged with this offense, at least one of the following conditions must be met:
- The suspect sends sexually explicit messages or material to the minor with the intent of engaging in indecency, statutory rape, solicitation of prostitution, prostitution, or human trafficking
- The suspect requests the minor to meet in person with the intent to engage in sexual activity, or to have minors engage in sexual activity with each other
A prosecutor needs to prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt in order to secure your conviction. Even if the prosecutor meets this burden of proof, you can still raise either of these affirmative defenses:
- You are married to the minor
- You were no more than three years older than the minor, and the exchange of messages was consensual
This statute explicitly states that a suspect cannot attempt to defend against online solicitation charges by claiming that they never actually met with the teenager. As a third or second-degree felony, the penalties for engaging in online solicitation are very harsh. You face years in prison, thousands of dollars in fines, and the obligation to register as a sex offender for life.
How a Houston Online Solicitation Attorney Can Help
At The Law Offices of Ned Barnett, we firmly believe that every person is innocent until proven guilty. To further this principle, we aggressively defend our clients’ interests at every stage of the criminal justice process. Cases that involve soliciting minors online are complex, emotional, and often contested. It’s essential that you retain an experienced and dedicated legal team to avoid devastating penalties.
If you’ve been accused of soliciting minors online, contact us today at (713) 222-6767 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.