Online Solicitation of a Minor
Sexual offenses involving minors are some of the most severe charges a person could face. Both the state of Texas and the federal government actively investigate and prosecute crimes related to the online solicitation of a minor. Law enforcement officers often use elaborate sting operations to build their case. One example can be seen on the NBC Dateline series called “To Catch a Predator.”
Federal, state and local law enforcement officers devote a tremendous amount of resources to investigate sex crimes, particularly those involving children. In addition, the charges can carry steep penalties, including lengthy jail or prison sentences and hefty fines.
San Antonio Online Solicitation of a Minor Attorney
If you were charged with the online solicitation of a minor, contact an experienced San Antonio sex crime defense attorney at Goldstein & Orr. The attorneys with Goldstein & Orr have years of experience defending these difficult cases. They understand the importance of protecting your freedom, and they will fight to make sure your rights are represented.
The team at Goldstein & Orr can handle your delicate case with the utmost importance. They are committed to helping ordinary people who have found themselves in a difficult situation. Call (210) 226-1463 to schedule a free case evaluation. Goldstein & Orr represents clients in San Antonio and throughout Texas.
Information on Online Solicitation Charges
- Texas Online Solicitation Statute
- Penalties for Online Solicitation Charges
- Sting Operations for Soliciting a Child
- Challenges to the Constitutionality of the Statute
Texas Online Solicitation Statute
A person can be charged with online solicitation of a minor in one of two ways. Under subsection two of § 33.021, the offense can be charged if it is alleged that:
- The person accused is 17 years of age or older
- The person accused acted with the intent to arouse or gratify any person’s sexual desire
- The communications occurred over the Internet, by email, text message or through some other online means
- The person accused intentionally communicates in a sexually explicit manner with a minor or provides sexually explicit material to a minor
Texas law defines the term “minor” to mean a person who represents himself or herself to be younger than 17 years old or a person whom the actor believes to be younger than 17 years old. In these cases, “sexually explicit” could mean any communication, language or material, including a photographic or video image, related to sexual conduct. This could potentially lead to child pornography charges, as well.
Under Subsection (2) of § 33.021, the crime also can be charged if the accused person is accused of knowingly soliciting a minor to meet anyone with the intent that the minor will engage in sexual activity with another person.
Penalties for Online Solicitation Charges
The offense generally is charged as a third-degree felony, unless it is also alleged the minor is younger than 14 years of age or the actor believes he or she is younger than 14. In those cases, the criminal offense is raised to a second-degree felony under Texas Penal Code Annotated § 33.021(f). Felony charges should be taken seriously.
A third-degree felony would be punishable by between two and 10 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. A second-degree felony in Texas would be punishable by a prison sentence of between two and 20 years, a fine of up to $10,000 or both.
Additionally, a conviction could carry other consequences, including a criminal record. If convicted of online solicitation of a minor in Texas, a person also could face:
- Limitations on employment professions
- Inability to receive governmental assistance
- Inability to enroll in certain educational institutions
- Loss of the right to possess a firearm
Sting Operations for Soliciting a Child
In many of these sting operations, adults talk in chat rooms with other people they think are consenting adults. However, the other person might actually be an employee of a local, state or federal law enforcement agency. At some point in the conversation, the other person starts talking about being a minor. In some of these cases, the person arrested for online solicitation of a minor has no intention of having sex with a child.
In other cases, the officers aggressively target a person to convince the person to commit a crime he or she is not otherwise be predisposed to commit. Entrapment can be raised as a defense in many of these cases.
Challenges to the Constitutionality of the Statute
The Texas Legislature wrote the online solicitation statute very broadly. This statute has been subject to numerous constitutional challenges. When bringing such a challenge to the statute, the criminal defense attorney can attack the statute as unconstitutional as applied to the defendant, or on its face.
Many of the problems with the constitutionality of the statute center around the elimination of factors showing that no intent to solicit the child actually occurred. In fact, subsection (d) of the § 33.021 states that it is not a defense to prosecution under subsection (c) that either:
- The meeting did not occur
- The actor did not intend for the meeting to occur
- The actor was engaged in a fantasy at the time of commission of the offense
The purpose of the statute is to criminalize “the conduct of an adult, who, with the intent to arouse of gratify the sexual desire of any person, uses an electronic message or online service to intentionally communicate in a sexually explicit manner with or distribute sexually explicit materials to a minor,” according to Texas Penal Code Annotated 33.021(b).
The legislative purpose of the statute was to allow law enforcement officers to investigate and arrest sexual predators while they were still grooming the child, but before they actually injured the child. By making the statute so broad, innocent individuals can be caught up in the sting operations. When prosecutors use the broad language of the statute to prosecute an innocent person, challenges to the statute on it face and as applied may become an important part of the defense.
Online Solicitation Lawyer in Bexar County
If you have been arrested or charged with online sexual solicitation or another type of sexually motivated crime in San Antonio, contact a sex crime defense attorney at Goldstein & Orr. We offer a free initial consultation and a case analysis. Our firm gauges our fees to the needs of our clients.