Many Texas Online Solicitation Charges Come From Police Stings
Internet solicitation of a minor is a very serious crime. Many people don’t realize that a person can be charged with Internet solicitation even if they haven’t made contact with an actual child. A substantial proportion of online solicitation charges come as a result of undercover police sting operations.
Typically, a law enforcement officer will pose as a 13- to 15-year-old girl or boy. The officer will set up an Internet profile or enter a chat room and will then wait to be contacted by an adult who is seeking sexual interaction with a minor. The officer lets the relationship grow to the point where a face-to-face meeting is scheduled. At that meeting, the suspected sex offender is arrested.
The officer will have kept a log of all online interactions to use as evidence against the suspect.
Entrapment rules do apply to online stings. The officer is not allowed to initiate sexually related conversations or propose engaging in sexual activity. Officers may not improperly induce a suspect to commit a crime.
Suspects Face State and Federal Charges
Online solicitation of a minor is both a state and a federal crime.
Under federal law, using the Internet to entice a minor under age 18 to engage in sexual activity is a felony punishable by a minimum of 10 years in prison. The maximum punishment for online solicitation is life imprisonment. The penalties are higher if the adult creates child pornography as a result of the act. Using the Internet to send sexually explicit material to a minor under age 16 is also a federal felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Texas sex crime law also makes online solicitation of a minor a felony. Under Texas law, an adult over age 17 who uses the Internet to solicit a minor to engage in sexual conduct — with that adult or with another person — can be charged with a second-degree felony. Second-degree felonies are punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
It is a third-degree felony under Texas law to use the Internet to send sexually explicit material to a minor. However, if the minor is under age 14 — or if the adult believes the recipient to be a minor under age 14 — the offense becomes a second-degree felony.
The law surrounding Internet sex crimes in Texas is quite complex and this article barely scratches the surface — as such this article should not be considered legal advice. However, this article does illustrate how Internet sex crime charges need to be taken very seriously. If you’ve been charged with a Texas sex crime, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help protect your future.