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Online Solicitation Law in Texas: What You Need to Know

The Law Firm of Andrea M. Kolski
Female phone user

Smartphones, laptops, and social media apps allow us instant communication and access to the internet virtually anywhere, anytime. But this technology comes at a price. Sometimes that price can mean unintentionally breaking the law. For example, a 61-year-old man from McAllen, Texas was recently arrested for coercion and enticement of a minor using WhatsApp on his smartphone.

Social media apps are a hornets nest of legal problems if users aren’t careful. While it’s important to protect the innocent from predators, more and more innocent people are finding themselves in serous legal jeopardy because of their online activity. Just ask the man from McAllen who could face life in prison if convicted. The laws relating to online solicitation in Texas are often confusing and with just a few clicks, one can easily break them if they aren’t aware of the details.

If you’re one of the 95% of Americans who use social media such as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram Whatsapp, or the countless dating apps, you better know the line between what’s legal and what’s not. Otherwise you could face serious, life-altering legal consequences.

Keep reading to learn all about online solicitation law in Texas and what you can do to protect yourself.

What Is the Texas Online Solicitation Law?

Texas laws on online solicitation involve any adult who deliberately communicates with a minor in a way that’s considered sexually explicit. This could include what’s known as “sexting,” or sending lewd videos or images. If the communication describes or relates to sexual activity, then it could be considered a breach of the law.

This could be done through the internet, such as email, texting, or via a social media app. Aside from sending lewd communications, the soliciting law in Texas also takes attempts to meet up into consideration. For instance, if someone knowingly uses the internet or an app in an attempt to have sex with an underage individual in person.

It’s worth emphasizing the punishments are severe if a defendant receives a conviction. In Texas, this crime is categorized as a third-degree felony. This could come with up to a decade of prison time, along with a fine of $10,000.

Upon conviction, you’ll have to register as a sex offender after getting out of prison. This is often the harshest penalty of all. Sex offender registration can severely limit the places you can live and they types of jobs you can obtain. Many neighborhoods, communities, and cities throughout the state have strict zoning laws forbidding registered sex offenders. This restricts the areas where sex offenders can live to tiny, sometimes crime infested areas of the community.

The cost of an online solicitation conviction can be devastating.

The Rise of Undercover Police Operations

in Texas, police operations are pouring more and more resources into online undercover or sting operations. These efforts are intended to protect innocent minors and catch predators. They do this by making convincing accounts that represent underage boys or girls. These undercover operations can last months and involve many detailed strategies to make the accounts appear real.

These online police operations are likely to expand due to the low cost and low risk to the officers involved. It’s much easier, and cheaper, to logon to a laptop and engage a potential suspect than get out in the community in a patrol car.

Communities and taxpayers demand a return on their investment and this creates pressure on police departments to deliver arrests and convictions. When people are under pressure to perform, they make mistakes and sometimes willingly overstep their boundaries. Undercover police officers are no different and can easily infringe on an unsuspecting persons rights or employ illegal tactics to entrap them.

Undercover police officers will often reach out to unsuspecting users to entice them into potentially illegal activity. While entrapment is technically illegal, there are many gray areas that can easily be exploited by an aggressive undercover officer. These tactics are so common that you may have already been contacted by an undercover officer without even knowing it. Being aware of these practices can ensure that you don’t find yourself on the wrong side of the law.

People mistakenly believe an officer must identify themselves or avoid lying when engaging with a user. Nothing could be further from the truth. Additionally, undercover officers have access to skilled hackers, programmers, and highly advanced equipment that most users don’t. For most users, it’s nearly impossible to identify an undercover police officer online.

In addition to the undercover officers, these operations often employ men and women who can pass off as underage. These decoys will often say or do anything to lure an unsuspecting user into conversations or situations where they could break the law. This makes it that much more difficult to identify who you’re corresponding with.

We often think of sex offenders as creepy old guys sitting in a basement lurking online for innocent young victims. However, more often than not, sex offenders are young people in their late teens or early twenties who are barely “adults” themselves. These young adults often don’t understand the laws around online solicitation and usually don’t think they’re doing anything illegal. A brief exchange on a dating site or conversation through a social app can suddenly ruin their entire future.

Social Media Apps Make Solicitation Easier

In the past, online solicitation of a minor in Texas wasn’t as easy. Nowadays, there are dozens and dozens of social media apps that make it all too easy to communicate with minors whether you know they’re underage or not.

These include Whatsapp, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, and many other platforms. In most cases, once you send a message to another user, there’s no way to take it back. This means there’s a more or less permanent record of any exchanges you’ve had.

If you’re charged with online solicitation and then tried to delete messages, you could get an additional charge for destroying evidence or attempting to interfere with an investigation.

This is why you should always think twice or even three times before sending a message to anyone. This is especially crucial when you can never be too sure of someone’s real age. Plus, the person you’re messaging could end up being the police.

Ways to Protect Yourself

If you’re worried about being in breach of the laws relating to online solicitation in Texas, then it’s a good idea to do everything you can to protect yourself. One way you can do this is by ensuring that anyone you talk with in a sexual way is of legal age. Instead of taking their word for it, it’s always best to confirm by asking to see official identification.

With modern technology, it’s also quite easy to fake the date of birth on an ID. This is why it’s more secure to conduct a background check on an individual before engaging in any communication of a sexual nature.

If you’re arrested due to online solicitation accusations, then you should get legal representation as fast as possible. Despite the pressure involved, it’s important to find a lawyer who has the proper experience and know-how to handle your case. The last thing you’d want is to get convicted because your lawyer didn’t represent your case effectively enough.

For starters, your attorney should have experience in criminal law. It also goes a long way if they’ve dealt with similar online solicitation cases before. Although cases can differ by quite a bit, it’s still a good idea to ask about their track record so you can have a better idea of what your chances of winning are.

An illegal entrapment is one potential defense a lawyer can use. If the defendant and the minor had an official marriage certificate at the time, then that will also help the case. Another promising possibility is if the defendant received consent from the minor and was no more than three years older.

Don’t Be Trapped By Texas Online Solicitation Law

Now that you’ve learned all about the online solicitation law in Texas, you can ensure that you’re protected. If you’re accused of breaking the law, then it’s important to have proper legal representation. That will give you the best chance of winning the case.

Texas online solicitation laws and undercover operations are meant to protect the innocent and catch predators. However, the reality is many young people in their late teens and twenties get snagged in these efforts and it can ruin their future. The stigma of the creepy old guy stalking young girls online is rare. More often than not, it’s your neighbors 19 year old college student who finds themselves facing the brutal consequences of police sting operations and the harsh consequences of Texas sex offender laws.

Don’t let an online solicitation arrest ruin your life or the life of a loved one. Experienced online solicitation attorneys can defend your rights and use proven strategies to lessen charges or even get cases fully dismissed. Online solicitation attorney Andrea M. Kolski is a criminal defense attorney in The Woodlands, Texas and has a track record of success second to none. She has successfully won the most challenging online solicitation cases and protected the freedom of countless clients. With years of in-depth experience under her belt, she’s earned the respect of her peers and is considered among the best in the field.

If you or a loved one need legal help, don’t risk your future. Contact our office and start your legal defense today. Click here to schedule a free case review.

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