The digital world has become dangerous, making it difficult to know who you can trust. With a few simple clicks, malicious individuals can create pseudo-accounts with fake pictures and pretend to be anyone they choose. This is why there are very stringent laws to protect minors against sexual advances and exploitation in the digital space. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about online solicitation and how to handle such a situation if you have been charged.
What is online solicitation?
Generally speaking, online solicitation is whereby a nefarious individual uses an online platform to obtain sexual gratification in exchange for something valuable. The law usually treats online solicitation as a felony sex crime or a misdemeanor. Subsequently, online solicitation of a minor is whereby the predator elicits a sexual response from a minor.
In this case, the predator could engage in sexual acts such as sending pictures of their genitalia and asking the child to do the same without meeting in person. Discussions about meeting up and performing sexual acts such as oral or intercourse with the minor will also be regarded as online solicitation. However, online solicitation can turn to sexual assault when the individual encourages the child to get into their car or invites them into their home.
The legal definition of a minor
Remember, children are very gullible and easy to manipulate thus it is understandable that the law is very aggressive in protecting these young minds. According to the law, a minor is anyone under the legal age of 18 years. Even a young lady who turns 18 in three months is still a minor in the eyes of the law.
It might be challenging to verify the age of the person you are interacting with online. For instance, a young lady might look significantly grown up in her photos, and you assume she is over the legal age. However, it doesn’t hurt to confirm that she is not a minor.
Sting operations to catch online predators
Law enforcement is determined not to let online predators get away with their crimes. If they are not stopped, they will continue to manipulate minors who have no clue about the kind of person they are dealing with. Police officers have started conducting sting operations, whereby one officer or an entire department lures a predator into thinking he is speaking with a minor. Once they obtain the evidence, they need to prove he solicited a minor, they arrange to meet up with him and take him down on-site.
Unfortunately, sting operations cast a vast nest. It is not uncommon for law enforcement to think they have their guy, only to realize later they arrested an innocent individual. Some predators also manage to escape the cops, rendering their efforts futile. However, we cannot dispute that sting operations, for the most part, have effectively brought justice to the affected minors.
How a lawyer can help
If you happen to be one of the unfortunate individuals who was wrongfully arrested and accused of online solicitation of a minor, you need to act fast. Time is not on your side; the longer you wait, the closer you get to being sentenced for the heinous crime. The most important thing to do would be to hire criminal defense attorneys who get results to help protect your rights. Your lawyer will examine your case, help you gather the proper evidence, explain legal terms, and ensure your rights are protected throughout the case.
Similar offenses to online solicitation
Prosecutors are often willing to charge defendants with multiple charges. For instance, if an online predator requests nude photos and tells other people about them, they could be charged with unlawful disclosure of intimate visual material. The law could also charge the defendant with indecency if they meet one-on-one with the minor and touch them inappropriately. If the predator created a pseudo account with pictures from other Internet users, they could be charged with online impersonation.
Consequences of online solicitation
The law considers online solicitation of a minor older than 14 as a third-degree felony offense, which means you might spend 2-10 years in jail. You could also pay fines worth $10,000. If the child is younger than 14, that is a second-degree felony with a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail. Inappropriate conduct between a teacher and a student is also a second-degree felony.
In a nutshell, sex offenses have dire consequences. You could be put away for a very long time if you are found guilty. If you are being charged with online solicitation, then it is thus vital to hire a seasoned lawyer to work towards get you off the hook.