Sex crime allegations in West Chester can have a ripple effect through every aspect of your life, from your employment and education to your reputation. If you have been accused of soliciting someone for sexual favors, you need an experienced online solicitation lawyer as soon as possible. You cannot take this lightly or assume that the accusations will go away. With the help of a West Chester law firm, skilled in sex crime defense, you can fight these charges and get your life back.
Attorney Michael Skinner has worked on both sides of criminal cases, giving him unique insight into how the system prosecutes those accused of sex crimes, particularly online solicitation cases. He is dedicated to each client’s right to a strong defense, and his goal is to secure the best possible result for each and every client.
Under Pennsylvania code 6318, unlawful contact with a minor is defined as intentionally being in contact with a minor or a law enforcement officer who has assumed the identity of a minor, with the purpose of:
These statutes also refer to Chapter 31, which defines sexual offenses. This is important because Section 3102 specifically states that when the sexual offenses is based on a child being under the age of 14, not knowing the age of the child is not a defense. Additionally, it is not a defense if the defendant reasonably believed the child to be 14 or older. It may be a defense if the act is based on a critical age above 14 years old.
Using a computer to contact a minor or a law enforcement officer pretending to be a minor for the purposes explained above is a third-degree felony.
A number of federal laws also criminalize online solicitation of children. Many of these laws focus on “using the mail or any means of interstate or foreign commerce,” which includes the Internet. These federal online solicitation laws include:
Other crimes focus on the reproduction, creation, or distribution of child pornography and intentionally enticing children to view a harmful website through deception.
One of the biggest consequences of being convicted of a sex-related crime is the requirement to register as a sex offender. This makes your information available to anyone interested in looking it up. This is particularly difficult for renters, as many landlords do not want to have their address listed on a sex offender registry. Additionally, this requirement may prohibit you from being employed in certain settings.
If you are charged with unlawful contact with a minor, you could be charged with a felony as well as additional crimes. For example, if police believe you were unlawfully contacting a minor with the purpose of getting them to engage in sexual conduct with the intent of creating a visual depiction of it, you could be charged with attempting to commit that crime. These convictions leads to higher fines, longer jail sentences, and sex offender registration.
Some offenders are even charged at the federal level with penalties varying, depending on the specific charges. For example, those charged under 18 U.S.C. 1470 face fines and imprisonment of up to 10 years. However, those charged under 18 U.S.C. 2422 face fines and imprisonment of at least 10 years.
Many people make the mistake of trying to explain themselves when they are brought in for questioning about online solicitation. Remember that the police are interested in building a case against you. Whatever you tell them can only hurt your case. Do not speak to anyone without an online solicitation attorney present. Additionally, do not provide access to your home, computer, or other electronics without a search warrant or attorney present.
As noted, for crimes that focus on victims below the age of 14, ignorance of a victim’s age is not a defense. However, if the charge is based on a critical age above 14 years, ignorance of the other party’s age may be a defense. This is difficult to prove, as you must have a preponderance of evidence demonstrating that you truly and reasonably believed the other party to be above the critical age. If this is an applicable defense, your attorney will use forensic evidence from your Internet logs, chat transcripts, and computer access to establish this and build a strong case on your behalf.
We noted above that federal and state officials have ramped up efforts to “catch” people by using law enforcement officers as decoys. This has led many people to end up in situations that they never would have been in, had they not been approached or spurred on by an undercover officer. If law enforcement officers went beyond legal limits to try to trap you, we will fight vigorously to prove your innocence.
The sooner you take action against online solicitation charges, the better chance you have of securing a positive outcome. Reach out to Skinner Law firm for a free and confidential case evaluation. An experienced and committed Chester County online solicitation lawyer will examine the evidence and build a case that protects your rights and future.