Online Solicitation of a Minor in Texas
Online solicitation of a minor in Texas is a felony charge that comes with serious consequences including possible jail time, fines, and lifetime inclusion on the Texas Sex Offender Registry. A conviction carries severe penalties, and can also impact your reputation, your relationships, and your career.
If you have been accused of online solicitation of a minor in Texas, you need Fort Worth’s most aggressive sex crime attorneys from Westfall Sellers fighting for your rights. Together, we can work to build a strong defense that pushes the prosecutor for a dismissal or lesser penalties.
What is online solicitation of a minor?
In Texas, solicitation of a minor is a charge that applies to any pursuit of sexual activity with a minor, including online requests for child pornography. Note that solicitation can include — but is not the same as — hiring an underage prostitute (learn more about Texas prostitution laws).
According to Texas Penal Code 33.021, online solicitation of a minor in Texas involves any sexual communication, conduct, or intercourse with an individual who is or who the actor believed to be under the age of 17. Keep in mind that you can be charged with online solicitation of a minor even if the minor consented to the sexual contact.
More specifically, the Texas Penal Code provides the following legal definitions for both online solicitation of a minor and offline solicitation:
- Section 33.021(b) states that a person who is 17 or older is soliciting a minor if he or she commits an offense if they, “Over the Internet, by electronic mail or text message or other electronic message service or system, or through a commercial online service, intentionally communicates in a sexually explicit manner with a minor or distributes sexually explicit material to a minor.” In this context, the term “sexually explicit” refers to communication (including pornography) that involves or describes sexual conduct.
- Section 33.021(c) states that solicitation of a minor occurs when an individual who is 17 or older commits this offense “Over the Internet, by electronic mail or text message or other electronic message service or system, or through a commercial online service, knowingly solicits a minor to meet another person, including the actor, with the intent that the minor will engage in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with the actor or another person.”
Both offline and online solicitation of a minor in Texas carry steep, life-altering penalties and punishments.
Keep reading: Is prostitution legal in Texas?
What is the penalty for online solicitation of a minor in Texas?
Is online solicitation of a minor a felony in Texas? Yes. In Texas, online solicitation of a minor is a third-degree felony. Charges for solicitation of a minor may come with jail time in Texas. If convicted, you will be facing a minimum prison sentence of 2-10 years, a maximum fine of $10,000, and will be required to register as a sex offender for life.
If the minor you are accused of soliciting was under the age of 14, your charges will be upgraded to a second-degree felony, punishable by a 2-20 year prison sentence, a maximum fine of $10,000, and a lifetime placement on the Texas Sex Offender Registry.
How do you beat a solicitation charge in Texas?
Because Texas police often use sting operations to catch and accuse people of solicitation, the prosecution usually has plenty of evidence to use against the accused. That said, there are two main defenses to online solicitation charges.
Aside from these two defenses, the unique subtleties of each case can be used to influence the final outcome. While online sting operations may make it easy for prosecutors to collect evidence and prove guilt, the specific factors of the accused’s life and the case can be used to influence sentencing.
The age difference between the victim and the accused was less than three years
In Texas, the same “Romeo and Juliet” laws that apply to statutory rape also apply to solicitation of a minor. The Romeo and Juliet laws specify that if the minor is at least 14 years old at the time of the alleged offense and the accused is less than three years older than them, then, so long as the interaction is consensual, it is also legal. In other words, a 16-year-old can legally solicit a 14-year-old so long as the interaction is consensual between both parties.
To be clear, consent is irrelevant if the victim is younger than 17 years old and the accused are more than three years their senior. Even if the minor consented to the sexual activity, a person can still be found guilty of solicitation.
The accused is/was married to the minor
Although this is an uncommon scenario, Texas law does exempt cases of online solicitation when the couple is/was married at the time of the alleged offense. As per Texas law, anyone aged 14 and older can legally marry so long as they have parental consent to the union. If it can be proven that the accused and the alleged victim were legally married, then the accused would not be found guilty of solicitation.
Accused of soliciting a minor in Texas? You need Westfall Sellers on your side to fight for you.
If you are facing charges of either offline or online solicitation of a minor in Texas, this is not the time to sit back and hope for the best. Westfall Sellers has years of experience handling serious sex crime cases in Texas, including online solicitation charges, and can help you achieve your case’s best possible outcome.
The only way to protect your freedom and your reputation is to hire an aggressive Fort Worth sex crimes attorney. Don’t give up hope — contact Westfall Sellers today to schedule your free consultation.