Although the internet is decades old, the law is still catching up with crimes committed across the web. Sexual crimes, such as harassment and illicit child pornography have become a focus of law enforcement and society. Lives can be ruined when accusations are made regarding sometimes consensual activity.
Types of Internet Sex Crimes
Internet crimes are complex. They may involve multiple people of various ages, and they may take place across state lines. The interaction of state and federal laws can be confusing.
Due to anonymity online, it may be difficult to determine the age of the individuals involved; however, ignorance is not always a defense. You may still be charged with a crime against a minor.
Messaging people online can create difficult situations. You may not be aware of tone of voice, reluctant feelings, or intent of the other person. What you feel is a consensual situation may not be as it seems.
Texas law criminalizes a variety of internet sex crimes, including:
- Online solicitation of a minor – Someone over the age of 17 who intentionally communicates in a sexually explicit way with a minor, sends sexually explicit material to that minor, or solicits the minor to meet with them for the purposes of sexual activity may be charged with a third-degree felony. However, if the minor involved is younger than 14, the adult may be charged with a second-degree felony.
- Possession or promotion of child pornography – If a person knowingly or intentionally accesses, possesses, or views depictions of a minor engaged in sexual activity, then they may be charged with a third-degree felony. This includes downloading or viewing child pornography on a website. Subsequent offenses may be heightened to a second-degree or first-degree felony.
- Electronic transmission of certain visual material depicting minor – A minor commits a crime if he or she intentionally and knowingly possesses or sends a visual of a minor engaged in sexual conduct, including if it is of him or herself, to another minor so long as the minor created the material or knows another minor created it. The minor can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. If the material was sent to embarrass, harass, or offend another, then it is a Class B misdemeanor. If the minor has previously been convicted of this offense, the current charge can be raised to Class A misdemeanor.
- Cyberstalking and sexual harassment online – Any person who repeatedly uses electronic communication to harass or frighten someone, contacts someone without their consent, or uses the persona of another person online without consent and with negative intent may be charged with a third-degree felony or a Class A misdemeanor.
Rumors of sexual crimes of any type are extremely detrimental to a person’s life long before they go to trial. Even the smallest whisper of a sexual- or child-related offense can cause a person to lose their job or family. A teacher or coach can lose their position in the community. A parent could lose custody or visitation of their children.
It is important to work with an attorney as quickly as possible if you’ve been accused of a sex crime. Our experienced Houston child pornography lawyers lawyer will help you aggressively fight the allegations and charges right away.
Possible defenses for internet sex crime allegations include:
- The relationship was consensual
- Evidence was obtained illicitly
- Testimony was tainted by leading questions
- Entrapment was involved
- You had no knowledge of illegal images
- Other people had access to your computer
Consequences of Conviction
Being charged with or convicted of a sex crime can be detrimental to your personal and professional lives. Your friends and family may be confused about the accusations against you, and your employer may want to distance itself from the situation. Legal consequences can be serious as well.
Penalties for felony sex crimes include the following:
- Third-degree felony – Incarceration of 2 to 10 years
- Second-degree felony – Incarceration of 2 to 20 years
- First-degree felony – Incarceration of 5 to 99 years, or life
- Monetary fines up to $10,000
- Registration as a sex offender
- Confiscation of computers and other property
Whether the crime is a felony or misdemeanor, the defendant will end up with a permanent criminal record. For a teenager who engaged in consensual sexual activity across the internet, this record could be extremely detrimental to attending college or graduate school, obtaining a professional license, even getting student loans or being approved for an affordable apartment.
Call a Houston Sex Crimes Defense Attorney for Help
Internet sex crimes can have harsh penalties both legally and socially. Whether the allegations have yet to risen to official charges or not, an experienced Houston sex crimes defense attorney can help you understand your situation. Ned Barnett has the experience as a state and federal prosecutor, as well as more than 20 years of criminal defense work. He is a certified criminal defense attorney by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Call The Law Offices of Ned Barnett at (713) 222-6767 to face allegations and charges head-on.