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Online Communications Can Lead to Serious Criminal Charges in Texas

Houston investigators with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Special Victims Unit are searching for a man wanted for sexual assault of a minor. As reported by ABC 13 News, the 15-year-old female victim met the suspect on an online social networking site (such as Facebook or Twitter). The two communicated for several months by text message before the suspect allegedly initiated a face-to-face meeting in November 2011.

After picking the girl up at her home, the suspect drove to a remote location in north Harris County, where she claims he sexually assaulted her, forced her from the vehicle, and then fled the scene. Because the incident arose from online communications between the suspect and the victim, he could also be charged with online solicitation of a minor if apprehended.

Online Solicitation of a Minor under Texas Law

Both U.S. federal and Texas state laws prohibit the online solicitation of a minor for sexual purposes. Under the Texas Penal Code, an individual may be charged with on-line solicitation of a minor if he or she has communicated electronically with a person believed to be younger than 17 years old in a sexually explicit manner, or has distributed sexually explicit material to a minor. A person may also be charged with the offense if he or she, over the Internet or by email or a commercial online service, knowingly solicits a minor to meet in person with the intent that the minor will engage in sexual activity with the actor or another person.

The statute goes on to provide acceptable and unacceptable defenses to an online solicitation charge. It is a defense to the charge if the accused was married to the minor at the time of the alleged incident, or if the accused was not more than three years older than the minor and the minor consented to the conduct. It is not a defense that the meeting did not occur, the accused did not intend for the meeting to occur, or the accused was engaged in a fantasy at the time of the incident. This means that a person cannot claim that he or she was not serious about the content of communications with the minor.

Contact an Experienced Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have been charged with online solicitation of a minor and/or other crimes stemming from communications or contact with a minor, please contact McLemore, Reddell, Ardoin & Story, P.L.L.C. We are well-versed in the defense strategies applicable to Texas Internet crimes and sex crimes, and have helped many clients obtain reduced sentencing, acquittals, and outright dismissals in the face of these serious charges.