Online Solicitation of a Minor
Online Solicitation of a Minor in Texas is a felony offense under Penal Code 33.021. This statute makes it a criminal offense to have a conversation by electronic means with a minor to 1) solicit the minor; 2) communicate in a sexually explicit manner; or 3) to distribute sexually explicit material to a minor.
Who is a Minor for Purposes of Online Solicitation of a Minor in Texas?
Anyone under the age of 17 is considered a minor for purposes of this statute. Additionally, anyone who the accused believed was under the age of 17 is also considered a minor. In many online solicitation cases, the person on the other end of the conversation is a law enforcement agent who in no way resembles the minor they are purporting to be.
Online Solicitation: An Example
The message included with this article is fictional, but it is a conversation that we’ve seen hundreds of times. A police officer or other law enforcement agent gets on an app like Whisper, YikYak, and Kik or websites like Craigslist (back when personal ads were still allowed) and posts a message that baits responses. It might be as simple as:
Law enforcement will then have a conversation during which they will say they are some age under 17. (And if they say they are under 14, the punishment range doubles – more on that later.)
Many of these conversations result in the suspect sending a photo of themselves to the law enforcement agent, which will later be used against the suspect. The conversations also often lead to a meet up – which is not necessary for the agents to prove their case – but they love intercepting individuals who agree to meet up. For those who don’t meet up, police will issue administrative subpoenas to get the IP addresses related to the accounts, usernames, or devices.
When the arrest occurs – be it at the intercept or based on an arrest warrant obtained months later – law enforcement is adept at pressuring individuals to the point their lives seem to be flashing before their eyes. These interrogations often lead to individuals confessing to crimes. A common police tactic is to suggest the individual sitting in front of them is a suspected pedophile who they believe has touched young children. That suggestion makes the person in the hot seat much more likely to say, “No! I never did that. The most I’ve ever done is chat.” Little does the suspect know that’s all law enforcement suspected. Confessions do not make prosecutors’ cases slam dunks in every situation, but they sure can make their jobs easier in many cases.
Another way the prosecution can prove online solicitation is by proving explicit materials – such as a photo or video – was sent to the minor.
The Online Solicitation statute is so broad that is has been challenged successfully in the past. The most recent revision came in 2015 after the Court of Criminal Appeals determined the statutory language was too broad.
The statute explicitly removes a defense that the meeting with a minor or purported minor did not occur. Instead, the certain portions of the statute criminalize mere conversations.
What is Online Solicitation of a Minor in Texas?
Online solicitation of a minor is essentially using the internet to set up a meeting with a minor with the intent that the minor will engage in sexual conduct. Online solicitation of a minor is generally a third degree felony with a punishment range of 2 to 10 years in prison. However online solicitation of a minor under the age of 14 is a second degree felony and the punishment range is 2 to 20 years in prison.
Online Solicitation of a Minor in Texas Defenses
It is not a defense that:
1. the meeting did not occur;
2. the accused did not mean for a meeting to occur;
3. the actor was only fantasizing about the meeting occurring.
It is a legal defense if the accused was married to the minor, or if the accused was not more than three years older than the minor and the minor consented to the conduct.
Collateral Consequences of Online Solicitation of a Minor in Texas
Any plea to or conviction for the alleged offense requires the defendant to register as a sex offender. This includes a plea that results in deferred adjudication.
Specifically, the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure requires anyone with a “reportable conviction or adjudication,” to register as a sex offender. A reportable conviction or adjudication” means a conviction or adjudication, including an adjudication of delinquent conduct or a deferred adjudication, that, regardless of the pendency of an appeal, is a conviction for or an adjudication for or based on: … (J) a violation of Section 33.021 (Online solicitation of a minor), Penal Code.
Have you or a loved one been accused of online solicitation of a minor? Call us today at (817) 203-2220 for a complimentary strategy session. Our team of former prosecutors and Board Certified Criminal Lawyers have extensive experience handling these types of allegations and are here to help. During this call we will:
- Discuss the facts of your case;
- Discuss the legal issues involved, including the direct and collateral consequences of the allegation; and
- Discuss the defenses that apply to your plan and in general terms discuss our approach to your case.
You can also contact us online:
Sec. 33.021. ONLINE SOLICITATION OF A MINOR.
(a) In this section:
(1) “Minor” means:
(A) an individual who is younger than 17 years of age; or
(B) an individual whom the actor believes to be younger than 17 years of age.
(2) “Sexual contact,” “sexual intercourse,” and “deviate sexual intercourse” have the meanings assigned by Section 21.01.
(3) “Sexually explicit” means any communication, language, or material, including a photographic or video image, that relates to or describes sexual conduct, as defined by Section 43.25.
(b) A person who is 17 years of age or older commits an offense if, with the intent to commit an offense listed in Article 62.001(5)(A), (B), or (K), Code of Criminal Procedure, the person, over the Internet, by electronic mail or text message or other electronic message service or system, or through a commercial online service, intentionally:
(1) communicates in a sexually explicit manner with a minor; or
(2) distributes sexually explicit material to a minor.
(c) A person commits an offense if the 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.
(d) It is not a defense to prosecution under Subsection (c) that the meeting did not occur.
(e) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that at the time conduct described by Subsection (c) was committed:
(1) the actor was married to the minor; or
(2) the actor was not more than three years older than the minor and the minor consented to the conduct.
(f) An offense under Subsection (b) is a felony of the third degree, except that the offense is a felony of the second degree if the minor is younger than 14 years of age or is an individual whom the actor believes to be younger than 14 years of age at the time of the commission of the offense. An offense under Subsection (c) is a felony of the second degree.
(g) If conduct that constitutes an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under any other law, the actor may be prosecuted under this section, the other law, or both.
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