The term "solicitation of a minor" could mean different things to different people. In most cases, the crime of solicitation of a minor involves the enticement and persuasion of any person under the legal age limit. However, you could also be detained and sentenced for soliciting an individual who you thought was a child, even though the victim was of legal age. Even if you didn't meet the minor, trying to set up an arrangement with them could lead to an arrest and conviction.
If you're facing charges for soliciting a minor, you have several legal choices. Our team at the Sex Crimes Attorney helps clients in California learn about their legal options, protections, and rights in the face of federal sex offense charges. Our skilled attorneys will work tirelessly on your behalf to achieve the best possible result for your case.
An Overview of Solicitation of a Minor Under Federal Law
Federal sex offenses cover a wide spectrum of sexual activities that are rendered illegal under federal laws and could be punished in federal court. The penalties for federal sex offenses tend to be significantly harsher than those for similar offenses at the state level. For example, most sex crimes involving minors are promptly raised to federal offenses.
Federal sex crime laws could apply to other sexual-related crimes that could be subject to state regulation, like sexual abuse or assault if the crime in question is serious or has aggravating factors. One form of a federal sex offense is the solicitation of an underage person. If you're facing charges for a sex offense in federal court, you could still be subject to legal action in the jurisdiction where you violated the law.
According to past rulings made by the United States Supreme Court, this scenario does not qualify as a case of double jeopardy. You could face multiple trials for the same incident or action. State courts would handle less serious offenses, while federal courts would handle more serious ones.
The term "soliciting" isn't always negative because solicitors might knock at your front door or reach out to try and sell you something. The action of soliciting can be defined as begging, pleading, enticing, requesting, or in any other way encouraging someone to take part in an unlawful act in a legal setting. In this context, solicitation always points to a move to convince someone to engage in illegal activities.
Solicitation of a minor could result in the commission of the following offenses:
- Child molestation.
- Aggravated rape.
- Sexual assault by an authoritative person.
- Aggravated sexual battery.
- Sexual battery.
- Aggravated exploitation of an underage person.
- Statutory rape.
- Commercial sex trafficking.
- Promoting prostitution.
- Patronizing prostitution.
Illegal Sexual Conduct and Activity
Any sexual contact or activity with a minor is a violation of federal law. This doesn't just apply to the action of sexual penetration and contact but also encompasses two other categories that involve sexual activity.
According to federal law, the following actions constitute illegal sexual conduct:
- Having sexual intercourse with anyone under the age of 18 is against Chapter 109A of the U.S. Criminal Code, which forbids such behavior in special territorial and maritime areas.
- Any sexual act that involves a minor and is carried out for monetary gains, like selling or buying sexual favors in trade for cash or other products, including prostitution.
- Any representation or creation of pornographic material involving children, including images captured on camera, motion pictures, videos, still photos, and other media created manually or digitally. Child pornography also includes sexting, which involves sending sexually explicit text messages to minors.
Elements of the Crime
Meeting with an underage person for lewd intentions is a violation that could be tried at both the federal and state levels. There are three "elements" to this charge that the prosecutor must prove:
- The accused person planned to meet with a child or someone they thought to be an underage person.
- The defendant had an unnatural or abnormal interest in minors that drove their actions.
- The offender intended to indulge in lascivious or lewd activity with the child at the planned meet, including exposing or causing the child to expose their genitalia, rectal area, or pubic area.
The prosecution has to demonstrate these three criteria before the defendant can be convicted of soliciting a minor. These elements are described in detail below.
Scheduled a Meeting With a Child or Someone Who is Thought To Be a Minor
It's unlawful to organize a meeting for lascivious or lewd purposes with anyone who is either under the age of 18 or is thought to be a child by the individual who is scheduling the meeting. An individual is considered a minor if they are under the age of 18, irrespective of their sexual or physical maturity.
The fact that the offender just needs to be convinced that the alleged victim is a juvenile is especially significant, as it allows law enforcement agents to pose as juveniles to conduct sting operations. Here's an illustration of how this situation could play out.
A defendant enjoys playing online games and frequently communicates with other players by using the game's messaging system. The defendant strikes up a chat with "Mary," a victim who introduces herself as a 14-year-old who enjoys "getting with adults who enjoy playing the game." However, the victim is a 45-year-old police officer working on a sting operation.
After exchanging several flirtatious texts, the defendant invites the victim over to relax on his/her sofa and watch movies. The defendant could still be convicted of soliciting a minor even though the individual in question was not a juvenile when the accused solicited the victim to come to his or her place of residence.
Driven By An Unhealthy or Unnatural Sexual Desire In Minors
The prosecution needs to demonstrate that the accused person planned a meeting with a child because they have an unnatural or abnormal sexual desire for minors to obtain a guilty verdict. However, the accused can avoid being found guilty of soliciting an underage person if the defense can show that their intention in setting up the meeting was not sexual.
The prosecutor will mostly rely on the conversation with the youngster engaged in the alleged incident to illustrate the accused person's sexual desire for minors. For example, the back-and-forth text emails or messages between the accused and the juvenile or anyone posing as a child.
The Intention To Take Part in Lascivious or Lewd Actions With a Child
To be convicted of solicitation of a minor, the offender has to believe that he or she is setting up a meeting with an underage person and does so out of an abnormal or unnatural sexual desire for minors. It should also be established that the perpetrator intended to conduct any of the following actions at the meeting:
- Expose their genitalia, rectal organs, or pubic area.
- Ask the minor to show off his or her rectal area, genitals, or pubic area.
- Engage in lascivious or lewd actions with the child.
Lascivious or lewd behavior is described as making physical contact to sexually arouse a minor. This involves touching them or inducing the alleged victim to touch the offender's body for sexual purposes.
The defendant's attempt to sexually arouse either himself/herself or the alleged victim can also be linked to the intention to arouse. For an act to be deemed lascivious or lewd, the contact must take place over or underneath clothing.
Federal Laws Governing the Solicitation of Minors
Solicitation of a child is illegal under federal law. Federal rules determining any criminal behavior involving minors include the most severe mandatory sentences in the United States. The United States Criminal Code, Title 18, Chapter 117, contains three provisions that criminalize the solicitation of juveniles:
- Section 2422 addresses enticement and coercion.
- Section 2423 addresses minor transportation.
- Section 2425 forbids utilizing interstate resources to send information about an underage person.
Enticement and Coercion
Instances that violate the prohibitions against coercing and enticing minors include the following:
- Any individual who intentionally compels, entices, coerces, or convinces an underage person to travel across countries or states to take part in prostitution and/or other illicit sexual acts violates Section 2422a.
- Anyone who intentionally attempts to force, entice, or encourage a juvenile to participate in unlawful sexual behavior violates Section 2422b of the Criminal Code. This includes using the internet and the mail as well.
Some instances where minors are transported in violation of the law are as follows:
- Section 2423a: Any individual who intentionally transports a juvenile from one state or country to another to take part in illicit sexual behavior.
- Section 2423b: Any individual who crosses state or international borders to interact illicitly sexually with someone under the age of 18.
Section 2423e states that anyone who tries to infringe on one of the provisions or conspires to do so, even if their effort is unsuccessful, could nevertheless face the same punishment as an individual who fully violates the section.
Using Interstate Resources To Transmit Details Of A Minor
The section forbids anyone from sharing or otherwise transmitting a minor's personal information (which could include their name, social security number, address, email address, phone number, etc.) to encourage, solicit, or offer another individual to take part in sexual conduct through any medium like the mail or means of international or interstate commerce like the internet.
When it comes to this specific section, the minimum age requirement stands at 16, not 18, as is the case in most jurisdictions. However, just like earlier legislation on this subject, failed attempts may nonetheless face the same penalties as successful ones.
Individuals Involved In The Solicitation Of A Minor
Most of the time, people assume that men are the ones who approach underage girls. The truth is that anyone can commit this crime. Any individual who intentionally aids in coercion, transportation, or sexual conduct can be arrested and charged, therefore, the perpetrator doesn't have to be a single individual.
The laws are explicit about who qualifies as a minor. According to federal law, a minor is any individual who hasn’t attained the legal age of eighteen. While the defense party could involve anyone, they are not exempt from liability. The term "minor" has a few anomalies, such as Section 2425, which defines a minor as any person who is aged sixteen years and below.
Common Legal Arguments In Cases Involving Unlawful Sexual Activity
There are several common defenses that a skilled federal defense lawyer could choose to raise on your behalf if you're facing charges for a federal sex crime. Here are some common examples:
The Defendant Was Falsely Accused
You could be a victim of a false accusation if either of the following occurs:
- A juvenile falsely claims that you tried to set up a meeting with him or her to engage in sexual activity.
- Someone impersonated you and solicited a child for lewd intentions. Impersonation techniques could involve utilizing your mobile device or computer, illegally accessing your email account, or obtaining your password and screen name.
This indicates that you are not guilty of the crime for which you are being held responsible. A case where someone else had been using your computer's connection, like email, IP address, screen name, applications, accounts, or other resources, possibly to cover up their actions, could involve parents or police officers forcing the juvenile to file a charge.
You could be able to claim entrapment as a legal defense if law enforcement officers forced or threatened you into trying to connect with the minor. If you can demonstrate that you wouldn't have engaged a minor if the law enforcement officers hadn't issued threats, pressure, fraud, harassment, or flattery to encourage you to take action, you could not be convicted of the crime.
Good Faith in Believing the Victim's Age
If you can demonstrate that you were unaware that the individual in question was under 18, you could be able to avoid being convicted of soliciting a minor. A jury can decide to drop the charges if there's proof to show that you thought the alleged victim was an adult, especially if the complainant is alleged to be under the age of 18 years old, even though the viability of this argument hasn't been established.
Lacked The Intention to Engage In Sexual Activities
Based on the "elements" of the offense, you cannot be considered guilty of solicitation of a minor if you weren't planning to engage in sexual activity at the scheduled meeting. This is valid even if the reason for setting up the meeting with an underage person was an unnatural desire for minors. It can be clear that you weren't intending to engage in lewd behavior if the scheduled meeting takes place at a location or time that suggests you weren't intending on doing so, such as a public area.
Insanity or Mental Instability
This implies that the defendant was either permanently or temporarily insane or not able to control their mental state and avoid getting involved in the incident in question.
The Defendant Lacked Motivation Due To Sexual Attraction In Children
Having an unhealthy or abnormal sexual desire for minors is another "element" of the offense that the prosecutor has to prove for you to be found guilty. You could be able to convince the court that you did not engage in soliciting a child if you had another reason for setting up the meeting, like loneliness or an interest in learning more about them without sexual or romantic overtones.
Penalties For Soliciting a Minor
The guidelines for sentences in federal cases involving sex crimes can be notoriously harsh. Most of the laws that ban such offenses also detail the specific terms of the sentence that needs to be served in the event of a conviction, such as the maximum and minimum years that should be served behind bars.
For instance, if you're found guilty of violating Section 2422a, Enticement and Coercion, you could be subject to a hefty fine and a maximum of twenty years behind bars for intentionally convincing or otherwise persuading a juvenile to go beyond the borders of a country or state to take part in sexual conduct that is against the law.
This offense also occurs when a person travels with an underage person to participate in sexual conduct that is against the law. Those found guilty of violating Section 2422b, Enticement, and Coercion, are punished by paying hefty fines and serving time behind bars for no less than ten years and a maximum of life imprisonment.
These maximum and minimum punishments are often assigned to first-time offenders. If the perpetrator commits the same crime again, the penalties could be enhanced. The severity of these punishments could also be elevated if the alleged child involved in the offense was extremely young, such as a person who was less than fourteen or twelve years old.
A requirement to sign up with the sex offender registry often gets tacked on to the end of any sentence handed down for any sexual crime that falls within federal jurisdiction. This registry collects information on sex offenders from each of the 50 jurisdictions and keeps that information synchronized.
You'll need to renew your registration on the sex offender registry every 15 years, every 25 years, or a lifetime, depending on the severity of your sentence. This registration could have a significant effect on your right to maintain or get employment, as well as your right to a home.
FAQs on Soliciting a Minor
The following are some of the most frequently asked questions related to soliciting minors for sexual purposes.
Is The Prosecution For Solicitation of a Minor Limited to the State Level?
No, it isn't. The solicitation of a juvenile is considered a federal sexual offense, which is a violation of the laws of the United States. States are also free to enact their own rules governing sexual acts involving minors. Sex crimes can legitimately be tried at the federal and state levels since less severe elements of the offense could fall under state laws while more severe aspects of the offense could be against federal law.
Does the Age of Consent in the State Define a Minor?
No, it doesn't. The federal law's classification of a child counts for federal sex offenses only. In most cases, a juvenile is defined by the federal authorities as someone under the legal age of eighteen years when the violation was committed. Anyone under 16 years of age can sometimes be referred to as a minor. In the case of sentencing some sex offenses that contravene state regulations, a jurisdiction's age of consent legislation could come into play.
Is It Illegal To Traffic Minors Across Interstate And International Borders?
Yes, it is. The act of transporting juveniles to engage in sexual activity is illegal under federal law, regardless of whether they're being moved between different nations or states.
Are Sex Acts The Only Form Of Illegal Sexual Activity?
No, it isn't. Sex acts involve contact with the rectal area, pubic parts, and/or orally, as well as penetration of a cavity of the pubic parts, or other foreign materials. Illicit sexual behavior, on the other hand, does not have to contain explicit sex actions, as stated. Instead, illegal sexual conduct can involve communicating information to children in a manner that is intended to arouse sexual desire or depicting children in a sexual way, like in pornography.
Find a Sex Crimes Attorney Near Me
If you’re facing charges of solicitation of a minor or a similar act, you have options for defending yourself against state and federal laws. If you have been arrested on suspicion of committing a federal sex offense, you should consider working with a professional defense lawyer right away.
Our team at Sex Crimes Attorney takes pride in our expertise and dedication to serving clients in California. Our skilled legal team focuses on federal and state sexual-related crimes, especially those involving minors. Our legal team will vigorously defend your rights and case in court to achieve the best possible result. Get in touch with us to find out how our attorneys can assist you. Call us today at 888-666-8480.