Among other things, this offense is sometimes called “cyber-stalking” or “internet solicitation.” A typical case may involve a “sting operation,” in which a law enforcement person posing as a minor child engages in “sex messaging” over the internet with a suspected child predator.
Another common scenario involves an adult who is accused of sex messaging with a minor after a third-party adult discovers inappropriate texts, emails or other types of electronic communication on the minor child’s computer or mobile device. In some instances, a person is accused of distributing sexually explicit material to a minor.
About Online Solicitation of a Minor
In Texas, Online Solicitation of a Minor can be a Third Degree Felony (2-10 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000) or a Second Degree Felony (2-20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000), depending on the facts. The offense also carries 10-year sex offender registration.
A person who is 17 years of age or older commits a Third Degree Felony offense if, with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, the accused, over the internet, by e-mail or text message or other electronic message service or system, or through a commercial online service, intentionally communicates in a sexually explicit manner with a minor; or, distributes sexually explicit material to a minor. (A “minor” is an individual who represents himself or herself to be younger than 17 years of age; or, an individual who the accused believes to be younger than 17 years of age.) Tex. Pen. Code § 33.021.
The sentencing range is increased to a Second Degree Felony if the minor is younger than 14 years of age or an individual whom the accused believed to be younger than 14 years of age at the time of the alleged offense. The sentencing range is also a Second Degree Felony, if the accused person, over the Internet, by e-mail or text message or other electronic message service or system, or through a commercial online service, knowingly solicits a minor to meet the accused or another person, with the intent that the minor will engage in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse.
It is not a defense to prosecution 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 commission of the alleged offense. It is a defense to prosecution that at the time of the alleged conduct the accused was married to the minor; or, the accused was not more than three years older than the minor and the minor consented to the alleged conduct.