Law Enforcement Working Hard to Catch Online Solicitors of Minors

Law enforcement is continually working to keep up with the rapidly expanding Internet. Whether it is used to post and transmit child pornography or to lure potential victims, the Internet has become a refuge for child predators.

The technology for concealing child pornography is developing as fast as law enforcement efforts for tracking it. In response, law enforcement has expended considerable resources to investigating and catching potential child pornographers. Online solicitation of a minor investigations focus on catching both those individuals engaging real child victims as well as those seeking children for sexual purposes online.

Online Solicitation Investigations

Typical investigations generally involve a law-enforcement investigator creating an Internet profile, entering an Internet chat room and posing as a girl or boy, typically between 13 and 15 years old.

The investigator then waits for an adult to initiate contact. Without leading the conversation toward sexual topics, the investigator lets the adult seeking a sexual encounter develop a relationship with the pretend adolescent. Law enforcement officials must be careful to not run afoul of entrapment laws by improperly encouraging someone to commit a crime.

If the interaction between the adult and the pretend child progresses to the point of the adult proposing an in-person sexual encounter, a face-to-face meeting is arranged where law enforcement officers will be waiting to make an arrest. Offenders are generally charged with attempted sexual assault and online solicitation of a minor, depending on the jurisdiction. Computer records and the investigator's logs of all online interactions between the adult and the pretend youth serve as evidence.

Online Solicitation of a Minor is a Felony

Minnesota law makes the solicitation of children to engage in sexual conduct and the communication of sexually explicit materials to children felony offenses. Specifically, the law prohibits people 18 years and older from using a computer system, wire or radio communication system or other electronic device to do any of the following:

• Solicit a child (a person 15 years old or younger) or someone the person reasonably believes is a child to engage in sexual conduct

• Engage in communication with a child or someone the person reasonably believes is a child, relating to or describing sexual conduct

• Distribute any material, including photographic or video images, relating to or describing sexual conduct to a child or someone the person reasonably believes is a child

The fact that the person being solicited was not really a child, or was actually a law enforcement agent, is not a legal defense to the crime. The penalty following a conviction for this crime is up to three years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

Accusations of soliciting a child to engage in sexual conduct are serious. Not only can they result in significant prison time, but they can also destroy one's reputation. If you or a loved one has been charged with this type of sexual offense, contact an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney to protect your freedom, your reputation and your rights.