Online Solicitation of a Minor is a very serious offense in Texas. In the Greater Houston area, Online Solicitation of a Minor is an offense that is frequently charged, typically as a result of police sting operations where law enforcement officers pose as young children and engage in chats with adults in online forums. In most Online Solicitation of a Minor sting operations, a defendant is arrested when he goes to some location to meet the minor.
Under Texas Penal Code 33.021, there are several acts which can constitute Online Solicitation of a Minor. Online Solicitation of a Minor can be committed when an adult communicated with a minor in a sexually explicit manner or distributes sexually explicit material to a minor with the intent to commit a sexual offense. Online Solicitation of a Minor can also be committed by “soliciting” a minor to meet for the purpose of engaging in sexual contact. Under the statute, it is not a defense that the meeting did not occur.
Online Solicitation of a Minor is a third-degree felony punishable by 2-10 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice if it is committed by communicating in a sexually explicit manner with a minor, or distributing sexually explicit material to a minor, with the intent to engage in sexual conduct. If the minor (or the person posing as a minor) was younger than 14 years old, then the case will be charged as a second-degree felony, punishable by 2-20 years. Online Solicitation of a Minor is a second-degree felony where a defendant is accused of knowingly communicating with a minor over electronic means with the intent to engage in sexual contact.
In addition to any punishment, Online Solicitation of a Minor requires sex offender registration for 10 years after any punishment has been completed. Unlike many sex crimes, a person charged with Online Solicitation of a Minor can receive probation or deferred adjudication probation from a judge or jury.
If you have been arrested in a sting and charged with Online Solicitation of a Minor, it is critical that you speak with an experienced sex crimes attorney as soon as possible. Although the process of defending a charge of Online Solicitation of a Minor will take several months (and sometimes a year or more), an experienced sex crimes attorney can help you start building your defense and represent you at your first court date, where the court will typically impose bond conditions that will have to be followed throughout the case.
In the Greater Houston area, bond conditions in an Online Solicitation of a Minor case can involve no contact with minors, limitations on internet usage, travel restrictions, drug or alcohol testing, and even a curfew. The reality is that bond conditions in an Online Solicitation of a Minor case can be extremely disruptive and make it difficult or impossible to live a “normal” life while a case is being defended. An experienced sex crimes attorney can help ease some of these bond conditions by arguing on your behalf in court and making sure that the bond conditions issued in your case are not overly restrictive.
After your bond conditions have been set, your criminal defense attorney will need to obtain all of the evidence in a case. In an Online Solicitation of a Minor case, the evidence typically consists of audio/video, transcripts of any chats or text messages, offense reports and statements from witnesses or the defendant. Typically, one of the main issues in an Online Solicitation of a Minor is whether the defendant had the intent necessary to convict him under the statute. Occasionally, there can be questions concerning the identity of the defendant, and whether the person who was arrested is the same person who engaged in the electronic communicates with a minor.
The best defense in an Online Solicitation of a Minor will vary depending on the facts. For example, if the intent of the defendant is questionable, and the police officer posing as law enforcement was the sexually aggressive party, a sex crimes attorney will have to consider the most effective way to present that defense. If the identity of the person who sent the messages is in question, it may be necessary for the defense to hire a computer forensics expert to show who accessed an electronic device.
In some cases, where the evidence against a defendant is strong, a defense may focus on mitigation. “Mitigation” refers to facts that tend to reduce a defendant’s culpability and make it more likely that a defendant will be treated with leniency. For example, if a defendant has no criminal history and has a long history of being a productive member of society, those are mitigating facts. An experienced sex crimes attorney can also consider having a defendant evaluated by a licensed sex offender psychologist who can create a report establishing a defendant’s risk of re-offending.
It is impossible to predict how an Online Solicitation of a Minor case will be resolved. The goal is to avoid jail time and to avoid a felony conviction. Although criminal defense attorneys are limited by the facts of a case, and the strength of the case against the defendant, experienced attorneys can still do a lot to protect their client’s freedom and future. If you have been charged with Online Solicitation of a Minor call Ceja Law Firm today for a free consultation.