What legal defenses are possible if you’ve been charged with online solicitation of a minor in Texas? Learn about federal and state sex crimes laws & punishments from an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney.
A serious sex crime in Texas and throughout the United States is online solicitation of a minor.
Such a charge involves persons who commit sexual abuse of minors starting with contact on the Internet via email, instant messaging, social media or some other avenue. Those convicted of the crime can face a prison sentence and need strong defenses in the legal arena.
Laws against online solicitation crimes have led to large, high-profile and aggressive investigations by federal, state and local authorities. These sometimes include arguable unconstitutional police “sting” operations to snare alleged perpetrators in a widely cast net. Online, a police officer can present himself or herself fictitiously as a minor under 17.
Such sting operations can produce public shaming and humiliation of those charged, even before their day in court. And in court, juries may be influenced by the moral outrage emphasized by prosecutors, making defense of an online solicitation of a minor charge difficult.
But winning your online solicitation defense case is far from impossible.
Indeed, expert legal defenses can combat a charge of online solicitation of a minor. Those who face such a charge should seek out experienced and skilled legal help from Houston sex crime defense lawyer Neal Davis.
Texas Sex Crime Laws & Punishments
Is online solicitation of a minor in Texas a felony?
In short, yes. Texas sex crime laws make online solicitation of a minor (under 17 years old) a felony. That means those who are found guilty can face the penalty of going to prison (Texas Penal Code Section 33.021).
According to Texas online solicitation of a minor penal code, adults who solicit a minor on the Internet to engage in sexual activity with them or with another person may be charged with a second-degree felony. The penalties for such a crime include spending up to 20 years in prison and paying a fine of $10,000.
Also, by Texas sex crime laws, simply using the Internet to send a minor material that is sexually explicit is a third-degree felony. That includes forwarding such material from another source.
Texas law holds any communication, images, video or other material to be “sexually explicit” if it “relates to or describes sexual conduct,” as also defined by law. Such material can be conveyed via Internet forums, chat rooms, cell phones, video game consoles, instant messaging, social networking sites, emails, texts (sexting) and other telecommunication means.
Punishment for this third-degree felony is 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Yes, even those who never may have met the minor involved can face up to 10 years in prison.
Even more prison time can come if the minor is less than 14 years old, or if the adult believes the recipient of the sexually explicit material via Internet is less than 14 years old. Then, sending sexually explicit material to such a minor online is considered a second-degree felony. The sentencing for a second-degree felony in Texas is 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine of not more than $10,000.
The lowest penalty for online solicitation of a minor is a “state jail” felony, or a fourth-degree felony, which calls for six months to two years in state jail.
Federal Sex Crime Laws & Punishments
By federal laws, employing the Internet to solicit a minor under 18 years old to engage in sexual activity is a felony - a felony which can bring punishment of at least 10 years in prison and a maximum punishment of life in prison. Harsher penalties are applied if an adult creates child pornography in the process of engaging in sexual activity with a minor.
Also, by federal sex crime laws, employing the Internet to send sexually explicit material to a minor less than 16 years old is a federal felony, with penalties ranging up to 10 years in prison.
Those convicted of online solicitation of a minor also may have to register as a sex offender. Today’s news media are prone to cover such charges aggressively while publishing the names of those charged even before their trial, thus damaging their reputation in the community.
That occurred recently when the Houston Chronicle published the names of 35 persons caught in a Montgomery County sting operation, for which most of them were charged with online solicitation of a minor.
Defenses Against Online Solicitation Charges
In Texas, defenses against online solicitation charges can include, of course, demonstrating that the defendant was innocent of the crime. But even without that defense, other mitigating factors can enhance a defense against an online solicitation of a minor charge.
For instance, if the defendant was married to the minor, that can be a defense against the charge. Or, if the defendant was not more than three years older than the minor, and the minor consented, a strong argument can be made.
However, online solicitation of a minor for sexual conduct cannot be defended by asserting that such a meeting never occurred, that the defendant never meant for it to occur or that the defendant was engaged in a fantasy.
In other words, Texas sex crime laws eliminate as a defense many common explanations by the defendant to indicate he or she had no intention to follow through with in-person sexual conduct with the minor.
Prosecutors of sex crimes may also gather evidence from the hard drive of a defendant’s computer to cite pornographic depictions or chat room transcripts. However, defense lawyers can work with specialists such as forensics experts to argue these issues in your favor.
Contact a Texas Sex Defense Lawyer Specializing in Online Solicitation Charges
Clearly, online solicitation of a minor cases are extremely serious, and those charged should seek knowledgeable legal help. They can get that by contacting Houston sex defense attorney Neal Davis at the Neal Davis Law Firm. He has decades of experience helping innocent Texans get the legal help they need, and he can help you too.
If you’ve been charged with online solicitation of a minor or believe you may be under investigation for such a charge - whether you live in Houston, Harris County, Montgomery County, Fort Bend County or elsewhere in Southeast Texas - contact Neal Davis today for a free legal review of your case.
Help is only a phone call away. Call 713-766-0760 today for your free case review. Or fill out the free case review form on our website. Either way, we're ready to hear from you!