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. If an individual shows intent to meet up with the child to engage in sexual activity, a defendant can be charged with solicitation of a minor. It's often over the internet. 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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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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Solicitation of a minor involves a person asking or engaging in a conversation with a minor in which they ask (or solicit) the minor to meet them for sex. Sometimes these “minors” are law enforcement agents posing as minors online. What matters it the intent.

Online solicitation of a minor is a common form of solicitation of a minor. It 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.

Much like other solicitation charges, 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 charged for the simple act of communicating in a certain way with a minor. If pictures are sent, even if the defendant claims they thought the child was 18, it could also lead to child pornography charges.

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 electronic solicitation of a minor. In the state of Florida, a person will face third-degree felony charges 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. All associated 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. As with other child-related offenses, a common defense is that the offender didn’t know the child’s age. Even in cases where the child seems willing, ignorance is not a defense. If you’re involved in a sting, the police generally make the presented age clear.

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 charges 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. Defendants could raise the impossibility or entrapment defense where an officer was posing as a child. Some defendants also claimed they knew they were talking to 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 reasonable belief that they were talking to a minor.

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. This is a dangerous strategy as many sex crime professionals will refute the idea aggressively. You could end up in prison with a severe record. Legal representation may aim to create reasonable doubt. Even the best legal team won’t always succeed in this regard.

Keep in mind, there is no basis of consent with a minor. Some states have Romeo and Juliet clauses for statutory rape, but the application can be questionable in solicitation cases.

Similarly, suggesting the conversation was just an online fantasy or that they never intended to actually meet the minor are generally not good defenses. Some defendants have gone as far as suggesting they were actually trying to protect the minor. This sex crime defense tends to fall flat on its face.

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

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What Kind of Deals Are Available for Solicitation of a Minor?

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. Given the severity of the consequences, it’s often in the defendant’s best interest to make a deal.

A deferred sentence may be offered in some cases. It allows a defendant to remain free, but the restrictions of probation tend to be more intense. They could include standard things like regular drug tests. They could also include the removal of all computers from the home or close monitoring of all electronic devices. Even the appearance of a re-offense could send defendants to prison.

Some defendants choose a prison sentence with the possibility of parole after a short time. In the United States, everybody is entitled to an attorney who can advise you on your options. The more common cases get, the more likely things like lifetime registration on the sex offender registry are. This gets worse when solicitation charges are registered as federal crimes.

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, employers are performing background checks and will not hire certain candidates. You may be limited to housing far away from schools and other places children frequent, and other long-term restrictions come into play. 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. A sex crimes lawyer can evaluate defense strategy options and advise you. The punishment may be harsher than you’d like. But a professional can lay out your chances and what punishments you could face if you move forward.

Every defendant has the right to a speedy trial, within a reasonable time, and without any delays. 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. If you’re relying on a defense of ignorance or knowledge the “child” was a cop, don’t count on it to work, especially when child porn is involved.

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