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 the Law Office of Paul Schiffer, we have over 40 years of experience in the legal field, and years of experience defending people accused of 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 restore your reputation, we’ll be there to support you through this difficult process. These are trying times that you shouldn’t face alone.
What is Online Solicitation of a Minor?
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 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 they’re soliciting is a minor, unlike other offenses where the accused’s knowledge or belief as to the minor’s age is irrelevant.
Police Sex Sting Operations
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. This 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. Many of the cases of this type that the Law Office of Paul Schiffer has defended have arisen from a sting operation.
Proving Online Solicitation of a Minor
Under subsection (b) of the 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 felony and face anywhere from two to 10 years in prison, and fines up to $10,000. However, this can be increased to a prison sentence ranging from two to 20 years if the minor in question is under 14 years of age. In that case, the crime is a second-degree felony. 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 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. These ramifications include:
- a permanent criminal record which will show up in background checks;
- restrictions on where you can live and work once you are released;
- difficulty finding or keeping a job;
- the inability to volunteer with certain organizations, including churches;
- the inability to obtain or the revocation of certain professional licenses;
- the inability to possess firearms;
- a negative change in immigration status, or the denial of citizenship;
- difficulty running for public office;
- loss of custody or visitation rights of biological children;
- the inability to foster or adopt a child;
- public stigma in your local community;
- strained personal relationships with friends and family;
- difficulty gaining admission to college or similar schools;
- the denial of financial aid for school; and
- the denial of government aid or difficulties applying for government aid.
Sex Offender Registration
Once convicted of online solicitation of a minor, 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.
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 conviction.
There are, however, some possible defenses that a skilled attorney can use to help you maintain your freedom and restore your good name. 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 chance that a skilled defense attorney can use an entrapment defense. This isn’t easy, but it is possible since the entrapment defense has occasionally been successfully used in court. Here, your defense attorney would have to prove that the law enforcement agent posing as a minor used some strategy or persuasion to encourage 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 attorney with experience handling these cases to defend you properly.
Why You Need a Defense Attorney
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 defense attorney, like Paul Schiffer and his team, 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 that the prosecution’s case. We will craft a solid strategy for defense, cross-examine witnesses, and present evidence to prove your case and help you maintain your freedom.
At the Law Office of Paul Schiffer, you’re always innocent until proven guilty. When you bring your case to us, we will never judge you based on the accusations against you. 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 Law Office of Paul Schiffer today to start building your defense. The sooner you come to us, the sooner we can start building your defense. We’re available by phone, email, or through our website’s contact form. If you prefer, you can also stop by our office in person to discuss your case. Don’t hesitate any longer, call us today and get the help you need and deserve.
How has Paul Schiffer Successfully Defended Cases of this Kind?
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 Paul Schiffer 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 Paul Schiffer, where your information is protected by the attorney-client privilege, that he will discuss potential strategies that are tailored to your circumstances. Call today to set up a meeting with Paul in his office. Be sure to bring any paperwork or other information you have about your case or an investigation.