What Happens If I Engage in Cybersex with a Minor in Texas?
Law enforcement agencies have learned that the most effective use of their investigative resources is to focus on the locations where the crimes are being committed. The Internet is the newest location where adults who are intent on exploiting children can easily find victims to prey upon.
The anonymity that the Internet offers makes cybersex crimes appealing to some individuals who believe they are protected from detection. However, that same anonymity could put someone in the position of engaging in sexually suggestive emails or texts with someone who could turn out to be an undercover police detective or FBI agent.
Cybersex Chat Rooms
Chat rooms have become a popular Internet location for the exchange of information, online gaming and social contact among other things. A person seeking a solution to a home repair problem might go to one of the many chat rooms scattered throughout the cyber world to pose the problem to other online users in the hope of getting a solution.
Law enforcement agencies know that chat rooms have become more than merely cyber meeting places for social interaction or to find out how to repair a faucet. Cybersex has become a popular activity in many chat rooms. When all of the participants are adults, the use of a chat room to exchange sexually explicit messages or to arrange meetings is usually not illegal, but problems arise when one of the chat room participants is a minor.
Texas Penal Code and Solicitation of a Minor
A minor under the Texas Penal Code is anyone under 17 years of age. When an adult enters an online chat room to communicate in a sexually explicit manner with a minor, it might not be a criminal offense. The law requires that the communication by the adult must be done intentionally and for purposes of sexual arousal or gratification. It must also be done under the belief that the person to whom the communication is being made is a minor.
It is also a crime under state law for an adult to communicate with and solicit a minor in to meet with the intent of engaging in any of the following activities:
- Sexual contact
- Sexual intercourse
- Deviate sexual intercourse
The federal law pertaining to cybersex with a minor uses terms such as “enticing,” “inducing” and persuading to define the prohibited conduct. It should also be noted that the federal statute defines a minor as someone who is younger than 18 years of age.
Possible Defenses to a Cybersex Charge
The adult initiating the request to meet cannot avoid prosecution by claiming that the meeting was not supposed to actually occur. Chat rooms are frequently used by people acting out their sexual fantasies under what they believe to be the safety afforded to them by the anonymity of the Internet. The law in Texas removes the fantasy angle from possible defenses that a person charged with committing a cybersex crime might raise.
It is a defense in Texas to a charge of online solicitation of a minor if the minor and the adult are married to each other at the time the offense is alleged to have occurred. The law also allows an individual charged with committing the crime to avoid a conviction if the minor consented to the solicitation and the person charged was no more than three years older than the minor.
Penalties for a Cybersex Conviction
Solicitation of a minor over the Internet is a felony in the third degree in Texas if the victim is less than 17 years of age but older than 14. It is a felony in the second degree if the victim is under 14 years of age.
A felony third degree in Texas is punishable by imprisonment for a minimum of two years and a maximum of 10 with a fine up to $10,000. A second degree felony is punishable by a prison term of at least two years and a maximum of 20. The fine for a conviction of a second degree felony shall not exceed $10,000
How a Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Might Help
The state and federal governments have committed large sums of money and other resources to the investigation and prosecution of people engaging in sexually suggestive activities with minors over the Internet. The Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force is a collaboration of law enforcement agencies created to combat online sexual solicitation and exploitation of minors.
Individuals charged under cybersex laws may be at a disadvantage due to the resources committing by the government. Someone who becomes the target of an investigation by the Houston task force or by any state or federal law enforcement agency should seek the advice of a criminal defense attorney who has experience handling cases under state and federal cybersex statutes.
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