Solicitation of a Minor
To Catch a Predator. We have all heard the term. It refers to criminal accusations of online solicitation of a minor or enticement of a minor into sexual acts or conduct.
What is the law on this crime, and how can you protect yourself if you are accused of this scary, awful, and heavily punished statute? This is a discussion of the federal statute that is investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Homeland Security, the US Postal Inspection Service, Customs and Border Patrol, and many other federal law enforcement agencies as well as local police departments. State laws, such as the Texas Penal Code, closely track the federal statute, but you should consult with your local criminal defense attorney to get a clear picture of the law and what you must to do defend yourself against false or unjust accusations.
Title 18, United States Code, Section 2422(b), makes it a crime for anyone to knowingly attempt to persuade, induce, entice, or coerce a person under 18 years old to engage in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense by use of any facility or means of interstate and foreign commerce. Usually this means a computer, a tablet, or a cell phone. And in the vast majority of cases, the “person under 18 years of age” is an undercover law enforcement officer pretending to be a child, or the parent of a child.
The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:
First: That you knowingly attempted to persuade, induce, entice, or coerce an individual to engage in any sexual activity, as charged;
Second: That you used the Internet, a cell phone, or any facility or means of interstate or foreign commerce to do so;
Third: You believed that such individual was less than 18 years of age; and
Fourth: That, had the sexual activity actually occurred, the defendant could be charged with the criminal offense of under the laws of the state in which this communication occurred.
It is not necessary for the government to prove the individual was in fact less than 18 years of age; but it is necessary for the government to prove you believed such individual to be under that age. Nor is not necessary for the government to prove that the individual was actually persuaded, induced, enticed, or coerced into engaging in the described sexual activity, as long as the government proves you intended to persuade, induce, entice, or coerce the individual to engage in some form of unlawful sexual activity and knowingly took some action that was a substantial step toward bringing it about. A substantial step is conduct that strongly corroborates the firmness your intent; mere preparation is not enough.
So how can your criminal defense attorney combat such an accusation, particularly if they have evidence of your texts, email, and phone calls discussing such conduct? There are many ways to fight such charges using experts in electronic evidence forensic examiners, private investigators, and mental health professionals. One of the most effective ways is to develop evidence of entrapment. Where a person has no previous intent or purpose to violate the law, but he or she is induced or persuaded by law enforcement officers or their agents to commit a crime, that person is a victim of entrapment, and the law as a matter of policy forbids that person’s conviction in such a case.
This is contrasted to a person who already has the readiness and willingness to break the law. The mere fact that government agents provide what appears to be a favorable opportunity is not entrapment. For example, it is not entrapment for a government agent to pretend to be someone else and to offer, either directly or through an informer or other decoy, to engage in an unlawful transaction.
If evidence of entrapment is provided by the defense, or evident in the government’s evidence, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt from the evidence in the case that, before anything at all occurred respecting the alleged offense in this case, you were ready and willing to commit the crime of enticement or online solicitation of a minor, whenever opportunity was afforded. In other words, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers or their agents did no more than offer the opportunity and you were not a victim of entrapment. If the jury (or judge, in a bench trial) has a reasonable doubt whether you had the previous intent or purpose to commit enticement or online solicitation of a minor, apart from the inducement or persuasion of some officer or agent of the government, then they must find you Not Guilty.
This tough work that requires much time and effort to prepare for the battle in trial. It will not be inexpensive for you as defendant, quite the opposite. But considering the severe penalties for these crimes, if convicted, and the lifetime sex offender registration involved, it is necessary to spend the time, effort, and funding to fight to win a battle you cannot afford to lose. Call 214.238.9392 as soon as possible to schedule a consultation regarding accusations of sex crimes.