Is chatting of a sexual nature on-line with a minor a legal issue?

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Is chatting of a sexual nature on-line with a minor a legal issue?

We have found that our son, who is 18, has a relationship with a 15 year old girl. As far as we know nothing sexual has happened but he has been chatting sexually with her on-line. We are trying to get him to break it off until she is at least 16 and thus of the age of consent in AL.

Asked on August 10, 2011 Alabama

Answers:

L.P., Member, Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

As you seem to be aware, the age of consent varies from state to state.  Simply chatting online with a 15 year old is not illegal.  However there are many sex crimes related to the internet.  Even more so, the internet provides a paper trail for the state when they are prosecuting these crimes.  Many states take the solicitation of minors and related crimes very seriously and the penalties for the crimes are significant. 

 

In 2009, Alabama toughened their laws on soliciting a minor for sex using computers.  Even though you state that your son is not meeting with this 15 year old girl, it may be difficult to prove that he had no intention of him meeting with her if his messages to her state differently.  Another factor to be aware of, you never know who is on the other end of the computer.  Many law enforcement agents set up operations acting as minors to catch online predators that are interested in talking sexually with minors. 

 

Additionally, the laws allow the state to punish individuals for soliciting a minor even though the individual never actual met with the minor.  Given the strict laws on this issue, you may want to warn your son about the serious nature about the potential crimes associated with his online behavior.


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