It seems that the Internet is the latest frontier in crime when it comes to finding challenges for law enforcement officials who need to stop or prohibit dangerous activities. Although Internet solicitation as a crime can broadly refer to encouraging, requesting, or demanding someone to engage in criminal conduct, it commonly refers largely to an attempt to get someone to engage in prostitution-related acts.
On the internet, the majority of solicitation crimes deal with people who are underage, and can involve videos of child pornography, or efforts made to use the internet as a method of setting up sexual contact with children or people under the legal age of consent. Approximately 2,500 people every year are arrested for issues of internet sex crimes that involve minors, and about 25 percent of those arrests occur as a result of a law enforcement official working undercover to discover the presence of internet solicitation.
Currently, it is still quite difficult to track and identify people who engage in internet solicitation but that doesn't mean that the methods used are not getting more effective. In fact, more people than ever are being tested and tried for acts of solicitation conducted on the web.
Examples of Internet Solicitation
As mentioned above, the crime of solicitation refers to an action which demands, encourages, or requests someone else to engage in criminal conduct, usually involving prostitution of some nature. The internet has made it easier for criminals to seek out victims and convince them to engage in dangerous acts because of the general anonymity the web provides. When people comment on internet solicitation, they're often referring to either an attempt made over the internet to convince someone to meet up in person and engage in acts of prostitution, or an attempt to conduct some sort of sex-based criminal act involving a minor.
In regards to minors, both state and federal laws dictate that it is a crime to engage in any type of sexual contact with a minor, even if that simply means requesting pictures over the internet. Any individual under the eighteen should never receive requests or demands for texts, emails, photographs, or any other form of communication that could be identified as sexual in nature.
In Massachusetts, electronic solicitation of minors is covered under Section 26D of Chapter 265 of the Massachusetts General Laws. Solicitation for prostitution is covered under Section 8 of Chapter 272
What's more, it is worth noting that state and federal laws also prohibit the possession, production, sale, and distribution of pornographic material that show a minor under the age of eighteen in a sexual set of circumstances. Today's child pornography laws are being used by the federal government and states to punish those using the internet to share and distribute any sexual material involving minors.
Under the United States Code 18, sections 2423, and 2422, it is possible for a person to be charged with the crime of solicitation over the internet involving a minor by the federal government if they commit any of the following actions:
- Knowingly persuade, entice, coerce, or induce a minor to travel across international or state borders to engage in acts of prostitution or unlawful sexual activity, or any attempt to do so
- Use mail or various other means on the internet, or means of international commerce to knowingly persuade any minor to engage in unlawful sexual activity, including sending images
- Knowingly transport a minor across international or state borders in an attempt to engage them in unlawful sexual activity, or traveling across international or state borders for the purpose of engaging in unlawful sexual conduct with a minor
It is important to note that the person accused of the crime does not actually have to have sex, or conduct sexual acts with the person in question in order to be convicted of internet solicitation. It is possible for people to be convicted of solicitation if they knowingly attempted to arrange a meeting for the purpose of conducting some form of unlawful act.
Internet Solicitation Punishment
The concept of punishing internet solicitation is a complex one. Because one can solicit the commission of various crimes, punishment can vary in a very wide manner. What's more, solicitation charges can sometimes change according to the state in which the defendant committed the alleged crime. Penalties for solicitation escalate depending on the severity of the felony that was solicited. For example, solicitation of a minor for sexual acts, or solicitation of murder is punished at a much higher degree than a felony for solicitation of prostitution.
Punishments for prostitution solicitation can sometimes vary too, depending on whether the person convicted has prior convictions. First time offenders can typically avoid jail time, and may instead receive fines, community service, and other sentences. Depending on the circumstances of your case, your crime may be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor.
- In regards to the internet based solicitation of children, under U.S. Code 18, those who are convicted of using the internet in an attempt to solicit unlawful sexual activity from a minor will face a minimum of ten years in prison if they are convicted of a misdemeanor. If the crime is classed as a felony, then the person convicted could face life in federal prison, as well as an additional fine of up to $250,000.
- Those who are convicted of traveling to an alternate state, coming into the United States, or traveling internationally from the United States to engage in solicited sexual conduct with a minor, will face a conviction at felony level that typically includes a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, alongside a $250,000 fine.
- Regardless of the crime, so long as it relates to sexual conduct in some way, once you are released from federal prison because of your solicitation conviction, you will be required to be registered on the sex offender list for the remainder of your life. If you fail to register, you could be charged with additional and separate crimes that carry the possibility of a ten year stay in prison, alongside various considerable fines.
- Soliciting for prostitution is punishable by imprisonment in a house of correction of not more than 2.5 years or a fine of not less than $1000, or both.
- Soliciting for child prostitution is punishable by imprisonment in state prison for not more than 5 years or by a fine of not less than $2500, or both.
Internet Solicitation Defenses
- Defendants can challenge the idea that they committed the act in the first place.
- They might also argue that they did not have a criminal intent in committing the act, so long as the solicitation does not involve specific factors. For instance, for those who are charged with solicitation for prostitution, they might argue that they weren't the person who was responsible for the crime, or that there was no intention in place to compensate the other person for the performance of sex acts.
- In certain circumstances, people may not be liable for a conviction of solicitation if they recant their intention to commit the crime, and notify the person involved that their request is no longer valid. Depending on the time of criminal behavior that was being solicited, recanting might also mean notifying the police in question to prevent subsequent criminal conduct from taking place.
What to Do If You Have Been Charged
Convictions of solicitation are very serious, and if you are found guilty then you might find yourself facing very significant consequences. Fortunately, an experienced criminal attorney might be able to help you properly plan your defense and reduce your chances of receiving a high penalty or punishment.