Learn about the definition, penalties and defenses for criminal solicitation of a minor in Texas
In the state of Texas, if you are charged with online solicitation of a minor, you could face serious penalties. Texas’ criminal code clearly says that you cannot knowingly or intentionally communicate certain things of a sexual nature to minors, and you cannot use online channels to solicit or attempt to induce a minor into performing any sexual act.
Often, Texas cases involving online solicitation of a minor will originate from a sting operation. Perhaps an undercover officer posed as a minor to gather incriminating evidence against the accused party. Law enforcement officers have become more adept over time at using these types of operations successfully.
Additionally, the state has written its statute regarding criminal solicitation to nullify most of the common defense explanations provided by the accused when attempting to show that they had no intention to go through with any sexual act. That said, there are still some defense strategies you can employ if charged with online solicitation of a minor—with help from a knowledgeable defense attorney.
What is online solicitation? (and other important definitions)
The Texas Penal Code covers criminal solicitation of a minor Texas under section 33.021, beginning with defining the term “minor.” This definition includes any male or female representing themselves as younger than 17 years old—or anyone the defendant has a reason to believe is under 17 years old.
The Penal Code also addresses and differentiates crimes against minor individuals younger than 14 years of age.
In Section 43.25(b), the Texas Penal Code defines the term “sexually explicit” as used in the application of online solicitation of a minor. This terminology covers any communication, language, materials, photographs, or video images related to or describing sexual conduct.
Texas Penal Code Section 21.01(3) provides definitions for the terms “sexual contact,” “sexual intercourse,” and “deviate sexual intercourse” as they relate to statute 33.021.
What do Texas’ criminal statutes cover?
The applicable Texas Penal Code Section 33.021 details online solicitation of a minor in subsections (b) and (c) as follows:
- Part (b) says that a person has committed an online solicitation offense if they intentionally communicated via the Internet (using texts, email, other online message systems or services, or a commercial online service) in a sexually explicit manner or provided sexually explicit material to a minor.
- Subsection (c) states that an individual has committed an offense if they use an Internet-based form of communication to knowingly solicit a minor to meet them or another individual, with an intent to engage with the minor in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse.
- For Section (c) offenses, even if the defendant did not meet with the minor, they can still be charged. The law covers communication with a minor, regardless of the outcome. Likewise, the defendant can be charged even if they say they had no intention of meeting the minor.
What are the penalties and sentencing for online solicitation of a minor?
Conviction of an online solicitation offense under Code 33.021 Subsection (b) is a third-degree felony in Texas. However, if the victim was under age 14 or the defendant believed the victim to be under age 14 at the time of the offense, then the offense is aggravated to a second-degree felony.
Any individual convicted of a third-degree felony in Texas faces a fine of up to $10,000. They will also spend time in prison. For a second-degree felony, prison time is up to 20 years and no less than 2 years. A third-degree sentence carries a maximum of up to 10 years and no less than 2 years in prison.
A convicted individual will also be required to register as a sex offender, regardless of a guilty or no contest plea.
What defense strategies work for online solicitation of a minor charges?
Whether an offense falls under sections (b) or (c), the statute discusses 2 viable defenses.
The first defense that can be used is if the minor involved is married to the defendant or was married to them when the defendant committed the offense.
The second defense says that the minor must be no more than 3 years younger than the defendant and the minor must have given consent for the conduct in question. However, things get challenging when trying to address consent, and this is one of the important areas requiring the skill of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Other defenses exist and have been successful in defending against criminal solicitation of a minor charges in Texas, although these defenses aren’t explicitly mentioned in the statute. For example, another possible defense strategy applicable to many cases is the circumstance of entrapment.
While what constitutes entrapment involves a good deal of complexity, the basic idea is that the defendant was induced by law enforcement to engage in criminal activity that they otherwise would not have done. Using this defense involves objective and subjective qualifications, so it’s not a black-and-white situation or guaranteed defense, even in a seemingly clear-cut case.
Another defense possibility involves the misidentification of an alleged offender. This could happen if someone else was using a computer belonging to the alleged offender or using a device that connected to the alleged offender’s Wi-Fi signal.
Why hire an online solicitation defense attorney in Houston, TX?
No one article can completely address the complexities of Texas laws regarding Internet sex crimes like online solicitation of a minor, which is why you should never fully rely on information you find on the internet as legal advice. However, you should understand that charges for Internet sex crimes are very serious and should not be ignored.
If you find yourself charged with a crime and are looking to get charges for online solicitation of a minor dismissed, dropped or reduced in Texas, protect your future by contacting Houston defense attorney Matthew D. Sharp. The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp has experience in online solicitation and other sex crime cases. Let us represent you and your interests.