Online Solicitation Of A Minor In Texas: What To Know And How To Defend Against Charges
Texas takes sex crimes seriously, with harsh punishments for those convicted of any number of offenses in this category. One of those is online solicitation of minors. In the interest of protecting children, Texas has laws in place to prevent minors from being approached online with certain comments, requests, or behaviors.
Under Texas Penal Code Sec. 33.021, it is a crime for a person 17 years old or older to use the Internet, email, text message or “any other electronic message service or system” to intentionally:
- Communicate in a sexually explicit manner with a minor; or
- Distribute sexually explicit material to a minor.
If the actor does either of the above with the intent of committing a sexual act outlawed within Chapter 62 of the Texas Penal Code, they can be prosecuted for online solicitation of a minor. The same is true if they do so with the intent of meeting the person that is a minor (or they believe is a minor).
What is the Punishment for Online Solicitation of a Minor in Texas?
Online solicitation of a minor in Texas is typically charged as a third degree felony. If the minor in question was under the age of 14, the crime could then be charged as a second degree felony. A third degree felony charge includes potential punishment of 2 to 10 years in state prison and $10,000 in fines, while a second degree felony charge may include up to 20 years in state prison and $10,000 in fines. With either charge, someone convicted of these crimes would be required to register as a sex offender.
Due to the lengthy prison sentences involved and lifelong consequences of a sex offense (and sex offender registration), conviction of soliciting a minor online can be devastating to someone accused of this offense.
What are Defenses to a Charge of Online Solicitation of a Minor in Texas?
Some people are rightfully charged with online solicitation because they have the full intent to carry out crimes against minors. Others, meanwhile, may get caught in the net of overzealous law enforcement officers creating “sting” operations. In some of these instances, a person did not have the intent or disposition to solicit or send images to a minor, but were coerced or prodded into doing so by police on the other end of a messaging service. The defense of “entrapment” is available to those that were wrongfully instigated into an act that was later charged as a crime.
Other defenses include that the alleged minor was within 3 years of age of the accused, and consented to the alleged conduct. For example, a high school student that is 17 or 18 years old may be flirting with a girlfriend or boyfriend that was 16 at the time. Charging that young person with a felony sexual offense is not what legislators or law enforcement agencies should have in mind when enforcing Texas sex crime laws.
Consult a Pearland, Texas Criminal Defense Attorney If You Or a Family Member Face Charges of Online Solicitation of a Minor
Being charged with any type of criminal offense is frightening, but a charge of online solicitation of a minor in Texas can be especially devastating. The consequences of a conviction can be severe, and follow a person for life. However, those charged with this crime may have important legal defenses available, depending on the circumstances. At Keith B. French Law, our Pearland criminal lawyers will thoroughly review all aspects of your case and make your voice heard in the legal process. If you have been charged with online solicitation of a minor anywhere in the Pearland area, contact the offices of Keith B. French Law, PLLC, today or call (832) 243-6153 for a case evaluation.