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Can You Actually Defend Against Online Solicitation of Minor Charges?

Sex crimes increasingly occur online. In Texas, online solicitation of a minor is one of the worst criminal charges to face. Those accused need to hire an experienced Galveston criminal defense attorney to represent them, otherwise they could quickly end up railroaded and spend years in prison. Texas prosecutors are aggressive when it comes to protecting minors, so hire an experienced lawyer at Tad Nelson & Associates to defend you.

What is Online Solicitation of a Minor?

You can find the statute at Texas Penal Code section 33.021. This law makes the following illegal:

  • Communicating electronically with someone under 17 in a sexually explicit manner;
  • Sending sexually explicit material to someone under 17;
  • Communicating electronically with someone under 17 to arrange sex.

The law also states that it’s illegal to do any of the above so long as you believe the person is under 17. Even if the person is really an adult, you can face charges if you thought they were underage.

Penalties Are Severe

Generally, sending sexually explicit material or communicating in a sexually explicit manner is a third-degree felony, with maximum penalties of 2-10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

If the minor is under 14—or if you think they are under 14—then this is a second-degree felony.

Arranging sex through electronic communications is a second-degree felony regardless of age. That could net you 2-20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Conviction will also require registering as a sex offender. This means your name will be in a public database, and you’ll need to update law enforcement of where you move to.

Don’t Try These Defenses

Anyone accused of online solicitation faces a real risk of time behind bars and a loss of reputation. Odds are the police have text messages or emails from your phone or computer, and they will introduce them as evidence in a case against you. You need a solid defense to make the state prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Let’s look at some defenses that don’t work:

  • It’s not a defense to argue you never went ahead and met the minor.
  • It’s not a defense that the minor contacted you or consented to meet with you.
  • It’s not a defense that the person on the other end was really 17 or older, if you thought they were younger.
  • It’s not a defense that you didn’t know their age.

The whole point of laws like this is to protect young people from predators. Simply reaching out and talking in a sexually explicit manner is enough to send you to prison.

What Defenses Work?

All hope is not lost. Instead, our Galveston criminal defense lawyers will dig into the facts to identify the best defenses possible. Some of the better ones include:

  • Someone else used your phone or computer. Yes, a message might have come from your email account, but that doesn’t mean you sent it. Maybe someone else used your phone. The state has to connect you to the message.
  • You are not more than 3 years older than the victim. The law has an exception for people who are close in age. This essentially allows teens to flirt with each other and even arrange sex.
  • You are married to the victim. This defense probably applied more frequently in the past. But the law explicitly says you can’t face prosecution if you’re married to the victim.
  • The communication wasn’t sexually explicit. This is somewhat subjective. What looks like sexual flirting to one person might appear innocent to another.
  • The material shared isn’t sexually explicit. You might have sent a video which some think is sexual in nature but is really open to interpretation.

Remember, the state must prove all elements beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s a high bar they must clear.

What About Entrapment as a Defense?

Some people are picked up as part of a police sting. An officer pretends to be 16 and goes into chat rooms to strike up a conversation with adults. Invariably, the decoy brings up the topic of sex. In these situations, the state is literally fishing to find a sexual predator. Is this entrapment?

It depends on the facts. Entrapment has a specific legal meaning. In Texas, entrapment consists of “inducing” someone to commit a crime by persuasion or other means. Often, officers pretending to be teens simply present an opportunity for you to commit a crime. We always consider whether to raise entrapment, but it’s hard in many cases.

Arrange a Consultation Today

At Tad Nelson & Associates, we can defend people accused of sex crimes. Call us to schedule a free consultation.