Sex crimes can occur online and offline. In fact, the rise of the internet and smartphones has provided new venues and tools for committing sex crimes. Whether an offense occurs in an online space or in the physical world, it is a federal crime.
Many of the individuals who are charged with online sex crimes are not actually guilty. These individuals might have had their devices compromised or obtained used devices without being aware of the content contained within them, such as child pornography. A sex crime conviction can result in serious penalties like jail time, fines, and mandatory registration with the Texas Public Sex Offender Registry.
Whether an individual is guilty of his or her charge or not, he or she has civil rights. It is easy for these rights to be railroaded by the United States Department of Justice or the United States District Attorney’s Office.
Online Sex Crimes: Explanation
When a sex offense involves a computer or the internet, it is considered to be an online sex crime. Examples of online sex crimes include the following:
- The creation or distribution of child pornography;
- The possession of child pornography;
- The use of the internet to contact a minor for sexual purposes;
- Stalking an intended sexual victim through the internet;
- Intentionally sharing sexually explicit material with minors;
- Using the internet to coordinate prostitution arrangements;
- Using the internet to participate in human trafficking for sexual purposes, including the buying and selling of children; and
- Arranging interstate or international travel to meet with an underage sex partner via the internet.
Being involved in any of the above, whether through ignorance or intent, can result in criminal charges under Texas and federal law.
The majority of online sex crimes that occur involve minors in some capacity, whether it is the distribution and possession of child pornography or the use of a social networking site to lure adolescents for the purpose of sexual relationships with them. Even when the minor consents to sex, as can sometimes be the case in relationships between adolescents and adult offenders, if the minor is younger than the age of consent specified by his or her state, he or she cannot consent to sex with an adult. In Texas, the age of consent is 17 to engage in sexual relations with an adult. Adolescents who are at least 14 may engage in sexual relationships with those three years their senior or fewer. Federally, though, it is illegal for an adult to engage in sexual conversation or other contact with anybody under the age of 18.
Online Sex Crimes: Criminal Penalties
If you are convicted of an online sex crime, the penalties can be fairly steep. A first time offender found guilty of producing child pornography can face 15 to 30 years in federal prison. In Texas, this offense can land a defendant in state prison for two to 20 years. Simply possessing child pornography is a third degree felony in Texas, which can be elevated to a second degree felony if it is deemed the defendant intended to distribute or promote the pornography. For a third degree felony, the penalties are two to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. For a second degree felony, the penalties are two to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $20,000.
Other online sex crimes can carry heavy penalties as well. In Texas, prostitution and patronizing prostitutes are both Class B misdemeanors. Pimping or promoting prostitution is a Class A misdemeanor, which can be punished by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000.
Multiple factors can play into the severity of an individual’s sentence. For example, although all prostitution is illegal, a defendant may face greater penalties if his or her offense involved soliciting sex from a minor. Talk to your lawyer about all of the factors present in your case to determine the right legal strategy for defending it in court.
Online Sex Crimes: Defending You in Court
An accusation of a crime is just that: an accusation.
It does not mean you are guilty. Further, being guilty does not mean you should have to face the maximum penalties for your offense. Learn more about your legal options and your rights during your initial legal consultation with our team of federal defense lawyers at The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates. Led by former United States prosecutor Amber R. Spurlock, we are equipped to develop a strong defense strategy for your unique case.