Solicitation of a minor involves a person over the age of eighteen who, whether by oral, written mail, electronic communication, electronic mail or Internet services, requires, hires, persuades invites or attempts to induce a person under the age of 17 to participate in a sexual activity. In our current Internet age, solicitation of a minor most often occurs through online chat rooms. It is extremely important that a person charged with solicitation of a minor have a thorough understanding of the charges, the potential penalties and the defense of the crime in order to avoid long-term, life-changing consequences in the event of a conviction.
In some cases false accusations are involved, and in other cases the act with the minor was never completed. Many times law enforcement personnel will charge the accused with solicitation of a minor simply for communicating in an inappropriate manner with a minor. This type of communication could be via e-mail, text message or in a chat room. Entrapment is common in these types of cases when a law enforcement officer is used to coax the suspect into saying things they might never have otherwise said. Note, however that it is not a defense to solicitation of a minor simply because an undercover police officer posed as a child during the online conversations. In other cases the accused believes they are talking to a person over the age of 17 when in reality the person is much younger. Reasonable doubt can be a valid defense when it cannot be proven that the person knew they were speaking to a minor.
Penalties for Solicitation of a Minor
Solicitation of a minor is a felony offense meaning the punishment can be quite severe. Prison sentences of several years are possible, depending on the specific charges and in some cases the convicted person will be required to engage in sex offender counseling, register as a sex offender and refrain from being around children while on probation. The prison sentence can be as long as five years in prison and in some states there is a minimum prison sentence of twenty-one months. Fees and fines can be prohibitively expensive following a solicitation of a minor conviction—sometimes as high as $5,000 in court fines.
The fees can include the cost of programs the court sentences registered sex offenders to which can run into hundreds of dollars per month. Also, each individual use of a computer or electronic device can result in individual criminal offense charges. This means that an offender who used a computer on five separate occasions to discuss engaging in unlawful sexual contact could be charged with five separate counts. Aside from court-imposed penalties, a conviction for any type of sexual offense brings social stigma which can cost offenders their family, friends, job and social standing in their community. The convicted sex offender could find themselves unable to gain employment, unable to secure a student loan or bank loan and even unable to obtain housing.
If you are facing charges of solicitation with a minor it is imperative you contact a discreet, compassionate and highly experienced criminal defense attorney who tried such cases in court and who has a broad background in defending sex crimes. Don’t hide your head in the sand and hope the charges will go away or be dropped. You need immediate legal intervention in order to ensure these charges do not haunt you for the rest of your life.