In Texas, although it might seem more benign than other sexual crimes, soliciting a minor over the internet is a serious offense which can wreak life-altering changes in your life and the lives of your family members. If you or a loved one has been accused of online solicitation of a minor, you need a qualified attorney to help you build a proper defense.
At Schiffer Law Firm, we have over 45 years of combined sex crimes defense experience, as well as working in both state and federal prosecutors offices, both prosecuting and defending child sex crime cases like online solicitation of a minor. We understand how serious these accusations are and how they can impact you. Not only can we defend you to preserve your freedom and help restore your reputation, our experienced team will be there to support you through this difficult process. These are trying times that you shouldn’t face alone or risk your life by taking the seriousness of these charges and their unique difficulty lightly.
According to Subsection 33.021(b) of the Texas Penal Code, online solicitation of a minor occurs when a person aged 17 or older intentionally communicates electronically in a sexually explicit manner with a minor. The communication can be over the internet, by email, text message, or similar electronic communication including a commercial online service. Online solicitation of a minor also occurs when a person aged 17 or older sends sexually explicit material to a minor. An offense is committed under Subsection 33.021(c) if the person tries to arrange a meeting between himself and the minor, or with the minor and a third party, with the intent to engage in sexual activity.
For purposes of this offense, a minor is someone under the age of 17, or a person whom the accused believes is under the age of 17. The accused must believe that the person he or she is soliciting is a minor, unlike other offenses where the accused’s knowledge or belief as to the minor’s age is irrelevant.
You can be charged with online solicitation of a minor without even having met the minor in question. Similarly, you can be charged with this even if the person you were communicating with turns out not to be a minor. That is the case with police sting operations where the person claiming to be a minor is actually a law enforcement agent posing as a minor to catch people seeking out minors for sexual pleasure.
These sting operations have become quite common and are effective. In fact, in 2016 there was a sting operation in Montgomery County where three dozen men were arrested for online solicitation of a minor, and, in some of the cases, other crimes. Again, to be accused of this crime, the defendant only needs to believe that he is talking to a minor. It is not required that the purported victim actually be a minor.
Almost 100% of Schiffer Law Firm’s clients that we have successfully defended for online solicitation were arrested due to an undercover sting operation.
Because of that, we have an array of not only sheer experience in dealing with the constitutionality issues and potential entrapment arguments, but also countless defense tools and strategies that we have compiled throughout the years that have proven to be successful for our clients.
Under subsection (b) of the Texas statute, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is 17 years old or older, that he acted with an intent to gratify or arouse sexual desire, that the contact happened by electronic means, as defined in the statute, and that the accused believed he was communicating with someone under the age of 17. If the charge involves sexually explicit material, the distribution of that material must also be proven.
If the charge is brought under subsection (c) of the statute, the prosecutor must prove that the accused acted over the Internet in one of the defined ways, knowingly solicited someone whom he believed to be under the age of 17, and had the intent to meet with the minor with the purpose of engaging in a sexual act.
The penalties for online solicitation of a minor vary, depending on the facts alleged to have occurred. If you’re convicted of this offense under subsection (b), you’ve committed a third-degree (3rd) felony and face anywhere from two to 10 years in prison, and fines up to $10,000. However, this can be increased to a second degree (2nd) felony with a prison sentence ranging from two to 20 years if the minor in question is under 14 years of age, or was believed to be under 14 years of age. It carries the same monetary fines as the third-degree felony charge.
If you’re charged with online solicitation of a minor under subsection (c) of the statute, it’s a second-degree (2nd) felony. The penalties are a prison sentence of anywhere between two and 20 years, and fines up to $10,000.
If you’re convicted of online solicitation of a minor, your punishment isn’t over after you serve your time. There are far-reaching consequences that can affect the rest of your life. Chief among these is that you’ll have to register as a sex offender. Your name, address, employer, and your job’s address will be placed in a public database searchable by anyone at any time. Your photo and fingerprints will also be available in the database along with information about the crime for which you were convicted and the sentence you served. Being a registered sex offender will restrict where you can live, where you can work, and even where you can socialize.
Your registration as a sex offender will affect you in the following ways, among others:
As mentioned above, it is not a defense to claim that you never met the minor you are accused of soliciting, or that the person with whom you were communicating isn’t really a minor. This means that you can’t get a reduced charge or a dismissal by claiming that nothing physically happened; your solicitation of someone you believed to be under the age of 17 is enough for a felony conviction. There are, however, some possible defenses that a skilled attorney can use to help you maintain your freedom and restore your good name.
In example, there is no crime if it can be proven that the accused was married to the minor in question at the time of the offense. Similarly, it is a defense to the charge that the accused is three or fewer years older than the minor, and that the minor consented to text, email or talk over the phone about explicit sexual conduct.
If you were arrested for this crime in a police sting operation, there is also a very slim, but possible, chance that a skilled defense attorney can use an entrapment defense depending on rare and unique circumstances. This defense, even if possible, has its pros and cons.
To raise an entrapment defense, you would have to first admit that you committed the crime. However, you would have to then prove that the law enforcement agent posing as a minor used some coercive and unconscionable strategy or persuasion to force you to commit the crime. However, if all the agent did was present an opportunity for you to commit the crime, and they can establish that you were predisposed to commit the crime, there is no entrapment. That is why you need a qualified sex crimes defense attorney with experience handling these cases to defend you properly. Even if there is no entrapment argument, there might be many more opportunities for a solid defense that would go unnoticed by an untrained and inexperienced defense lawyer.
While these cases are difficult to defend against, there is still hope if you’ve been accused of online solicitation of a minor. An experienced and knowledgeable sex crimes defense attorney knows how to defend these charges in a thorough manner that can get you the best possible result. While the evidence against you may be mounting, we know where and how to attack the prosecution’s case. Our defense team at Schiffer Law Firm will craft a solid and unique defense strategy.
At Schiffer Law Firm, our team will never judge any individual based on the accusations against them. Instead, you’ll be treated with the dignity and respect you deserve, from the moment you contact us until we’ve achieved your best resolution. We understand how hard these times can be on you and your family, and we’ll be by your side every step of the way to help you in any way we can.
If you or a loved one has been accused of online solicitation of a minor, contact the Schiffer Law Firm today so we can give you immediate advice to protect your greatest defense. Mere words or actions from a defendant after an arrest can be a death knell to the perfect defense. The sooner you come to us, the sooner we can start building your defense.
That’s a great question, but you won’t find the answer here. While there is nothing inherently secret about a great defense, some attorneys are simply better prepared, more creative, and more experienced than others. It’s that combination that makes our sex crimes defense team so successful in defending these cases. A professional sports team, or an army preparing for battle, doesn’t disclose its strategy to the opposition. It is only through a confidential, in-person, meeting with our attorneys, where your information is protected by the attorney-client privilege and away from any prying wire taps or snooping law enforcement investigators, that we will discuss potential strategies that are tailored specifically for you.
Call today to set up a confidential in-office or virtual meeting.
The first thing you need to do is accept the situation. You have been charged with a crime, and yes, this is really happening. Having worked with thousands of clients throughout our attorneys’ careers, we understand thoroughly the storm of emotions that you may be feeling right now. Accepting the situation you are in will allow you to make rational decisions moving forward.
Now that you’ve accepted the reality of your situation, it is imperative that you maintain a clear head and stay in control of your emotions. In far too many situations, we see clients betrayed by their emotions and negatively impact their own defense. Panic, anxiety, and second-guessing everything is the soil where bad legal strategy and decision making grows.
If you find yourself stressing about your situation, do what you can to calm yourself down. If you find that you need to talk with someone, please call us. We’ll discuss what’s going on and help you get a clear picture of your situation.