What is online solicitation of a minor in Dallas?
Online solicitation of a minor is a felony in Texas. The offense occurs when an adult communicates online with a child (anyone under 17) or someone whom the adult believes is under 17 and:
- has a sexually explicit conversation, or
- sends sexually explicit photos or video; or
- asks to meet the child to engage in sexual contact.
Online solicitation of a minor is a very serious charge and is typically a third-degree felony. In some cases, however, it can be a second-degree felony.
Dallas Online Solicitation of a Minor Lawyer, Serving Dallas and the Surrounding Areas
Most Dallas online solicitation of a minor charges result from an officer posing as a minor in a sting operation on a website or social media app or chat. Law enforcement agencies at every level often operate online solicitation stings, including police departments, sheriff’s offices, Texas DPS, and the FBI.
What’s surprising is that many of the arrests in these cases involve adults who never had physical contact with an actual child. They simply communicated with the police officer and then were arrested.
In this post, we’ll detail the punishment for an online solicitation of a minor conviction, how Texas defines the offense, defenses against the charge, and the undercover officers’ role in many cases.
If you’ve been arrested for online solicitation of a minor in Dallas or North Texas, it’s important to contact an experienced Dallas online solicitation of a minor lawyer as soon as possible. The stakes are extremely high if you’ve been accused of this charge. The attorneys at Varghese Summersett will work tirelessly to produce the most favorable outcome possible.
How does Texas define online solicitation of a minor?
A person can be charged in Dallas with online solicitation of a minor in one of two ways.
- Texas Penal Code Section 33.021(b): A person 17 or older commits the offense if they intentionally use the internet, texts, or other electronic messaging “to communicate in a sexually explicit manner” or “distribute sexually explicit material” to a minor. Sexually explicit is defined as anything relating to or describing sexual conduct. This is a third-degree felony if the minor is 14 or older.
- It’s a second-degree felony if the child is under 14.
- Texas Penal Code Section 33.021(c): A person commits the offense if they knowingly use the internet, texts, or other electronic messaging to solicit a meeting with a child with the intent to engage in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse.” This is a second-degree felony regardless of the minor’s age. It does not matter whether the meeting occurred or if the alleged offender intended for the meeting to occur.
Who is considered a minor in a Dallas online solicitation offense?
Texas Penal Code Section 33.021 defines a minor as:
- a person who is younger than 17; or
- a person whom the alleged offender believes to be younger than 17.
Anyone under the age of 17 or anyone who the alleged offender believed was under 17 qualifies as a minor. In many online solicitations of minor cases, the “minor” is a law officer posing as part of a sting operation. It only matters that the alleged offender thinks they are communicating with a child to file a case.
What is the punishment for online solicitation of a minor in Dallas?
Online solicitation of a minor in Texas is typically a third-degree felony with punishment between two and 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. However, if the solicitation involved a minor under age 14 (or purported to be under age 14), it is a second-degree felony, and a conviction brings a punishment of two to 20 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
Does a conviction for online solicitation of a minor require sex offender registration?
Yes, anyone convicted of online solicitation of a minor is required to register as a sex offender for 10 years. Even with deferred adjudication or probation, offenders are required to register.
What are the defenses against online solicitation of a minor?
It is a statutory legal defense if the alleged offender is married to the minor or isn’t more than three years older than the minor and the conduct was consensual. Other factual defenses may apply beyond statutory defenses, so it’s important to contact an experienced Dallas online solicitation of a minor lawyer as soon as possible. The attorney will listen to the facts and circumstances of your particular case and decide on the best defense strategy.
In Texas, it’s not a defense against an online solicitation of a minor charge if:
- a meeting did not occur;
- the alleged offender did not mean for a meeting to occur;
- the alleged offender only fantasized about the meeting occurring.
Note: Online solicitation of a minor is illegal at any age in an educator-student relationship.
Can you be federally prosecuted for online solicitation of a minor?
Most online solicitations of a minor cases are filed by the state. It’s possible, however, for the federal government to file charges for the same offense whether the state prosecutes or not. Using the internet to lure anyone 17 or younger is punishable by 10 years to life in federal prison, according to 18 USC 2242.
What are police allowed to do in online solicitation sting operations?
Law enforcement agents are allowed to lie about their true identities during online solicitation investigations. The law allows for the alleged victim to be an adult posing as a minor. As you’ve likely seen on news programs, arrests often occur when the alleged offender tries to meet the “victim” in person.
Officers can obtain internet service provider records to identify an alleged offender or their location and eventually serve a subpoena, which could result in incriminating evidence or confessions.
What’s an example of an online solicitation of a minor case?
Consider this fictional example, which is a scenario our defense team has seen dozens of times: An undercover law enforcement officer assumes an underage identity online, either on a website or social media app and engages in conversations to bait responses.
At some point during this online conversation, the undercover officer will give their ages as something under 17. If the officer claims to be under 14, the punishment range doubles.
These conversations often lead to the alleged offender sending photos of themselves to the undercover officer, which eventually could be used against the suspect. These conversations often result in a meeting. A meeting is not necessary to prove the officer’s case, but intercepting an alleged offender who is trying to meet up with a minor is an often-employed tactic.
Even without a meeting, officers can issue administrative subpoenas to learn the internet protocol address associated with the account, username, or device.
At the moment of arrest in a solicitation of a minor case, law enforcement agencies are cunning at making the alleged offender fear their world is crumbling down. Intense interrogation often leads to confessions. Confessions don’t always make the prosecution’s case airtight but often make their job much easier.
Speak to a Dallas Online Solicitation of a Minor Lawyer.
Are you or a family member facing online solicitation of a minor charges in Dallas? If so, it’s critical to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. The Varghese Summersett criminal defense team has decades of experience fighting these types of cases. Call us for a complimentary strategy session at 214-903-4000.