Hiring a Dallas Criminal Defense Attorney for Charges of Electronic Solicitation

A man was recently sentenced to 176 months in prison after he pled guilty to the charges of electronic solicitation. The 44 year old male was arrested after a 37-year old man saw his ad on Craigslist which appeared to solicit teenage boys for sex.  The 37-year old responded to the ad, pretending to be a 13-year old teen.  A detective, posing as a high school freshman arranged to meet the ad poster in a park, where he was later arrested and charged with electronic solicitation.  In light of this story, what can we take away from it?

Changes in State and Federal Laws

In recent years, the federal government has encouraged local law enforcement personnel to set up online sting operations such as this one as a means of cracking down on Internet solicitation.  Electronic solicitation can consist of contact via cell phone, Facebook, Twitter or other cell phone text messages and can be prosecuted in cases of suggestive communications between two teenagers who are only a couple of years apart in age. In other cases, “evidence” can easily be blown out of proportion or even misunderstood completely.

Further, under the provisions of Jessica’s Law, law enforcement is actively seeking to make as many arrests for sex crimes regarding teens or children as possible. State and federal laws have been tightened up in order to invalidate previously successful defenses to Internet solicitation; under these new laws a simple transcript of a chat room conversation could result in a conviction of electronic solicitation. Prior to the advent of these new laws when the state prosecutor charged the alleged perpetrator with attempted indecency with a minor the defense could raise a number of legitimate defenses. Some of those defenses included:

  • Whether the Defendant made an apparent step toward completing the underlying offense.
  • Whether the Defendant actually traveled to the meeting location agreed upon in chat room or email conversations.
  • Whether the Defendant actually had the intent of completing a sexual act.
  • Whether a minor was actually ever involved.

Since most states have recently made amendments to electronic solicitation laws, the appearance of soliciting sexual activity through Internet channels from a child the solicitor believes to be under the age of 16 may be sufficient for charges and even a conviction.  In many cases, the nature of the charges coupled with a Defendant’s computer hard drive may mean that the state has hard evidence which can be difficult to defend. Even so, Internet solicitation cases resulting from police sting operations bring into question the issue of entrapment, particularly when the police officer was only posing as a teenager or child. An experienced Dallas criminal defense attorney with a solid background in defending those charged with electronic solicitation may also be able to argue such issues as:

  • Were “lines crossed” with regard to the police officers’ chat dialogue which could lead to a reasonable conclusion of entrapment?
  • Was the Defendant under significant mental or emotional stressors at the time which were exacerbated under the police sting operation?
  • In the transcripts of chats or emails between the Defendant and the alleged victim, was sexual activity clearly proposed or was the language vague enough that a statute was not violated?
  • Did officers purposely choose an age for their “victim” which would increase the penalties for the Defendant in the event of a conviction?

Obviously no reasonable adult condones true electronic solicitation of teens or children, however there are many cases in which mistaken identity or entrapment may come into play. In other cases, maybe one bad decision led to the charges of electronic solicitation. Whether you are absolutely innocent of the charges of electronic solicitation or you made a mistake you now greatly regret, you need to ensure you have an experienced Dallas criminal defense attorney by your side from the very beginning.

Jack Pettit is a Dallas criminal defense attorney who has substantial experience defending those charged with sex crimes. Mr. Pettit understands what is at stake in your case; aside from being sentenced to jail or prison, you could end up having to register as a sex offender for the remainder of your life. Whether your specific situation warrants working to get the charges dropped altogether or negotiating a lighter sentence, Jack Petitt truly cares about your future and will provide zealous representation on your behalf. Call (214) 521-4567 today for a confidential free consultation.

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