Solicitation of a Minor Charges: Punishments, Penalties, Defenses

Online solicitation of a minor charges are classified as felonies. As with most felonies, the range of punishment includes up to several years in prison, sex offender evaluation and registration, and court-mandated counseling that can cost $500 or more per month. As long as the method is electronic and the conversation includes a request for the child to meet to engage in sexual activity, a defendant can be charged with solicitation of a minor. For more legal help, use the free tool below.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 11, 2021

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Solicitation of a minor involves a person asking or engaging in a conversation with a minor and during the course of that conversation, the person asks (or solicits) the minor to meet them for the purpose of engaging in a sexual act.

Online solicitation of a minor is a common form of solicitation of a minor, and involves communication through the internet during which the solicitation occurs.

When charged with online solicitation of a minor, a defendant should understand the charge and its defenses, the initial penalty, and the long-term consequences.

Online solicitation of a minor is a very frustrating charge for many defendants because it does not require a completed “act” with a minor. A typical defendant will argue by saying, “I never touched her, so why am I being charged?” That person is essentially charged for the simple act of communicating in a certain way with a minor.

For internet solicitation or online solicitation of a minor, the method of contact must involve some type of online or electronic means. When this charge first evolved, most states restricted the application to conversations through the Internet, like those in chat rooms.

However, as technology expanded, so did online solicitation laws. Some laws now include conversations through any electronic messaging services, emails, or text messages.

As long as the method is electronic and the conversation includes a request for the child to meet in order to engage in sexual activity, then a person can be charged with solicitation of a minor. In the state of Florida, a person will be charged with a third-degree felony if s/he used a computer or internet device to communicate and solicit a child into sexual intercourse. Moreover, if you attempt to solicit or solicit a parent of a child to allow the child to engage in sexual intercourse, you’ll be also convicted of a third-degree felony. Solicitation cases might also involve explicit material or child pornography (such as images or videos). Child pornography charges can be severe and carry harsh penalties.

Depending on the circumstances of the case, these sex crimes are usually considered a second-degree felony or third-degree felony if the victim was a child.

What are possible defenses for solicitation of a minor?

Solicitation of a minor laws are frequently challenged by defendants on the basis that they violate a defendant’s right to free speech, but have survived such claims. Viable defenses remaining will depend on a particular state’s laws.

Some earlier laws required a defendant to actually communicate with a child and defendants could raise the defense of impossibility where prosecution involved communication with an officer who was merely posing as a child but who was in actuality an adult.

In response to the success of the impossibility defense, many state statutes changed their laws to permit a conviction based on a defendant’s belief that they were talking to a minor.

Other states have also built-in “Romeo and Juliet” defenses for a person who is involved in a dating relationship with a child who was not more than three years younger than the defendant.

Although not an outright “defense,” another defensive angle is to prove that the defendant did not know that the person on the other end was a minor. Most states have strict liability laws which means the state is not required to prove that a defendant knew how old the child was, only that the child was underage.

However, some juries have engaged in “jury nullification,” by finding a defendant not guilty if they believed that the defendant did not have a reason to believe the child was underage.

However, some juries have engaged in “jury nullification,” by finding a defendant not guilty if they believed that the defendant did not have a reason to believe the child was underage.

Showing that the conversation was just an online fantasy or proving that they never intended to actually meet the minor are generally not good defenses.

Before a defendant decides to pursue a defensive theory, they should discuss the practicality of the defense with a criminal defense attorney in their area.

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Is solicitation of a minor considered a misdemeanor or felony?

Online solicitation of a minor is usually classified as a felony-level offense. As with most felonies, the range of punishment includes up to several years in jail.

A defendant in Texas can receive felony charges from two to twenty years in prison.

Although a deferred sentence can allow a defendant to remain free, the restrictions of probation tend to be more intense for online solicitation charges because they are considered sexually related offenses.

The court can order a defendant to submit to maintenance polygraphs, complete individual or group sex offender counseling, submit to a sex offender evaluation, and refrain from being around any children while on probation.

The court can also require a defendant to pay for these programs which can run up to $500.00 or more per month.

The long-term consequences can be even more severe. Because online solicitation of a minor is considered a sexually related offense, a defendant can be required to register as a sex offender.

If a defendant fails to register, they can be charged with a new felony offense of failure to register as a sex offender. Once a defendant has a sexually related offense on their record, some states will significantly increase the punishment for a second offense if a defendant is ever charged with another sexually related offense.

Beyond the court system, online solicitation will also affect employment opportunities. With more open access to the court systems, more employers are performing background checks and will not hire certain candidates. Applicants with sexually related offenses are generally the first to get cut.

What’s the bottom line?

A person commits an offense if s/he requests or attempts to persuade a minor to engage in sexual conduct. It is no defense to prosecution if the child solicited is not criminally responsible for the offense solicited; the child solicited has not been prosecuted or convicted or is immune of prosecution; the offense solicited was actually committed.

Every defendant has the right to a speedy trial, within a reasonable time and without any delays. If you’ve been charged with solicitation, it might be best to contact a criminal defense lawyer with experience and knowledge to discuss legal representation and the best options on how to defend yourself. Your lawyer will guide you through every step of the legal process and help you fight the charges against sex offender registration.

A careful investigation is necessary to defend against any criminal charges. Don’t rely only on evidence gathered by law enforcement officers. If you can prove a lack of intent in the case, the conviction will have no grounds to stand on.

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