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Online Solicitation of a Minor

Adults must be very careful in who they associate with and what they say to others on the internet. What may seem like a fun, casual conversation meant in jest or in fantasy can have life-altering consequences if you are accused of soliciting a minor. You could face lifetime sex offender registration or jail time if convicted.

 

In America, you have the right to an attorney. It is crucial that you exercise this right prior to speaking with police or investigators. Confessing that you “messed up” or saying you were “just playing around” with no intent of follow-through can bolster the state’s case against you.

 

Legal representation in Dallas, TX can be found at the Law Office of Jeff King, a defense attorney specializing in computer crimes, including online solicitation of a minor.

What is solicitation of a minor?

According to Texas Penal Code § 33.021, “solicitation of a minor” is defined as: “if a person — over the Internet, by electronic mail or text message or other electronic message service or system, or through a commercial online service — knowingly solicits a minor to meet another person, including the actor, with the intent that the minor will engage in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with the actor or another person.”

 

A “minor” is defined as anyone who represents him or herself as younger than 17 years of age – or who the actor believes to be younger than 17 years of age. The offense is committed if the solicitor intentionally:

  • Communicates with a minor in a sexually explicit manner
  • Distributes explicit material to a minor

 

Even if a meeting or sexual encounter did not occur, the very act of solicitation based on fantasy is grounds for punishment, according to Texas law. Soliciting a minor can be considered a felony if the minor is younger than 14.

Possible defenses for soliciting a minor

A variety of possible defenses may be applicable to your case in the state of Texas. These include:

Legal conduct

The law in Texas explicitly allows for a defense if you are married to the minor OR if you are not more than three years older than the minor and the minor consented to the conduct.

Freedom of speech

The “right to free speech” has been a compelling defense argument in Texas courts. In the July 2015 case of Texas v. Paquette, Judge Kelly W. Case of the 9th District Court deemed the state’s solicitation of a minor law “unconstitutional” and in violation of the right to free speech.

 

The defendant, 35-year-old Daniel Paquette, was arrested and charged with using Craigslist email correspondence to solicit sex with a 14-year-old in exchange for money. He was arrested in an undercover sting when he traveled to a Montgomery County apartment with cash and a condom in his pocket.

 

The defense team successfully argued that some internet users engage in sexual fantasy “age-play,” where one or more participants pretends to be under-aged children.

Statute of limitations

In the case of Texas v. Thompson, Timothy Thompson was deemed a “registered sex offender” following a sexual assault charge from 2000. Investigators later charged him with solicitation of a child, believed to be under 14 years of age, in 2006.

 

Following an initial life sentence passed down in 2009, the Court of Criminal Appeals ordered Timothy Thompson’s case back to the 9th state District Court in Montgomery County to dismiss his indictment.

 

Though his life sentence will be overturned, the Huntsville resident still faces three third-degree counts of criminal attempt and one second-degree count of online solicitation of a minor.

 

His defense will contend that the statute of limitations ran out for the alleged crime. In the state of Texas, plaintiffs have up to three years to file a formal complaint under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure article 12.01(7).

Entrapment

A defendant targeted in a sting operation can potentially use “entrapment” as a legal argument. It is allowable for officers to provide the opportunity for a crime to occur or to misrepresent their age, gender and identity while chatting online. A solid case for entrapment includes evidence that the officers:

  • Used force to coerce you into committing the crime
  • Used bribes or sexual favors to encourage you to commit the crime
  • Repeatedly attempted to persuade you to commit the crime

 

Successful entrapment defense arguments could result in all criminal charges being reduced or dropped. Any information gathered by officers will be deemed inadmissible in court and you may even pursue charges against the officers who committed the wrongdoing.

Punishment for solicitation of a minor

Depending upon the nature of the communication and the age of the child or decoy, these cases can result in:

  • Fines of $2,000 – $10,000
  • 180 days to 20 years in prison
  • Lifelong sex offender registration

Online solicitation defense attorney in Dallas, TX

Though Texas courts are progressive in their treatment of online solicitation defendants, you don’t want to leave your reputation to chance. Jeffrey King has more than 14 years of trial experience, including work on both sides of the aisle. He’s willing to go the extra mile in diligent preparation of his cases, and has taken more than 1,000 cases to verdict. King works with both civilian and military personnel, as an award-winning former Major in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves himself. Contact the Law Office of Jeffrey King to begin building a successful defense.

Additional “online solicitation of a minor” resources:

  1. Houston Chronicle – Judge, Montgomery County prosecutor continue sparring over orders http://www.houstonchronicle.com/neighborhood/woodlands/news/article/Judge-Montgomery-County-prosecutor-continue-5754222.php
  2. Breitbart – TX Judge Declares State’s Online Sexual Solicitation of a Minor Law Unconstitutional http://www.breitbart.com/texas/2015/07/29/texas-judge-declares-states-online-sexual-solicitation-of-a-minor-law-unconstitutional/
  3. The Houston Chronicle – Man facing online solicitation indictment even after appellate relief http://www.chron.com/neighborhood/champions-klein/news/article/Man-facing-online-solicitation-indictment-even-9678162.php
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