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Computer Solicitation of a Child Attorney in Charlottesville, Virginia

The online world allows people to pretend to be someone they are not. Children can convince others online that they are adults, and vice versa. The easy access to the internet and ability to remain somewhat anonymous can lead to trouble for adults who end up communicating with someone they believe to be a minor.

Being accused of soliciting a minor online can be enough to ruin someone's life, even if they are innocent. The Commonwealth of Virginia takes child solicitation allegations very seriously and can be very aggressive in prosecution. You have the right to a strong defense and you should not have to plead guilty just because the police make you feel like you have no other option.

If you or a loved one has been accused of solicitation of a child online, contact an aggressive criminal defense attorney to protect your reputation. Bryan J. Jones can review the evidence against you and help develop a strong legal defense to clear your name. Contact his office in Charlottesville today.

Use of A Computer to Solicit a Minor in Virginia

Under Virginia Code § 18.2-374.3, it is unlawful for any person to use a communications system or other electronic means for the purposes of procuring or promoting the use of a minor for taking indecent liberties or production of child pornography. Using a computer to procure a minor for indecent purposes or for the production of child pornography is a Class 6 felony.

It is a Class 5 felony to use a computer for the purpose of solicitation and with lascivious intent to do any of the following with a child the individual knows or has reason to believe is a child under the age of 15:

  • Expose his sexual or genital parts to a child or propose that any such child expose his sexual or genital parts to such person;

  • Propose that any such child feel or fondle his own sexual or genital parts or the sexual or genital parts of such person or propose that such person feel or fondle the sexual or genital parts of any such child;

  • Propose to such child the performance of an act of sexual intercourse, anal intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, anilingus, or any other crime against nature; or

  • Entice, allure, persuade, or invite any such child to enter any vehicle, room, house, or other places, for any of the above purposes.

Computer, Phone, or E-Mail

The “use of a communication system” under the law includes regular and modern forms of communication systems, from mail to social media. Communications covered by the law include:

  • Any print medium,

  • Agent or agency,

  • U.S. mail,

  • Common carrier,

  • Communication carrier,

  • Electronic communication system,

  • The Internet,

  • Telecommunications,

  • Wire system,

  • Computer network, or

  • Radio communications.

Through the use of the internet, phone data transmission, or computers, it includes social media platforms and apps, such as:

  • Snapchat,

  • Facebook,

  • Instagram,

  • WhatsApp,

  • WeChat,

  • Signal,

  • Kik, and

  • Twitter.

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Elements of Online Solicitation of A Minor

In order to get a conviction, the prosecutor needs to prove all elements of the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If the judge or jury prosecutor fails to prove one element, then the defendant should be found not guilty. The elements of the use of a computer for solicitation of a minor include:

  1. That the defendant used a computer, computer network, or other communications system;

  2. For the purposes of soliciting a child with lascivious intent;

  3. To engage in the prohibited activities;

  4. The defendant was 18 years of age or older at the time; and

  5. The defendant knew or had reason to believe, the child was less than 15 years of age at the time.

Penalties for Computer Solicitation of A Child

The penalties for computer solicitation of a child depend on a number of factors, including the age of the child and the number of prior convictions.

The penalties for a Class 6 felony conviction include:

  • A fine of not more than $2,500; and

  • A term of imprisonment for 1 to 5 years; or

  • Confinement in jail for up to 12 months.

The penalties for a Class 5 felony conviction include:

  • A fine of not more than $2,500; and

  • A term of imprisonment for 1 to 10 years; or

  • Confinement in jail for up to 12 months.

If the subject of online solicitation is less than 15 years old and the defendant is at least 7 years older than the subject, the penalties include 5 to 30 years imprisonment, with a mandatory minimum of 5 years. A second or subsequent violation where the defendant is at least 7 years older than the subject carries a mandatory minimum term of 10 years imprisonment, and up to a maximum of 40 years.

Sex Offender Registration

The penalties for online solicitation can extend beyond jail and fines. A conviction may require the individual to register as a sex offender in Virginia. Sex offender registration requires the individual to register within 3 days of release from jail, including:

  • Have your photograph taken;

  • Provide a DNA sample for use in the DNA data bank;

  • Submit your finger and palm prints;

  • Provide your employment information;

  • Submit any instant message, email address, or chat user ID;

  • Provide the registration information for any vehicle, including your car, boat, ATV, etc.; and

  • Provide proof of your place of residence.

Failure to register as a sex offender is a Class 1 misdemeanor. The penalties for failure to register include up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. A second or subsequent conviction for failure to register is a felony.

Defenses to Computer Solicitation of A Child Charges in Virginia

Taken out of context, text messages or phone call recordings could make an innocent person appear guilty. In some cases, the police and prosecutor go after an innocent person for fantasies or role play where the defendant knew the other person was an adult. Make sure you talk to a criminal defense attorney who understands the tactics the police and prosecutors use.

Challenging any and all of the elements of the prosecutor's case can create enough doubt to get a not guilty verdict. Challenging the evidence to keep it out of court may even weaken the prosecutor's case so much that they drop the charges. Bryan J. Jones will review the evidence, including the police report, depositions, computer records, and investigate your case to develop a strong defense strategy.

Contact an Experienced Sex Crime Defense Attorney in Charlottesville, VA

If you have been charged with solicitation of a child online or other sex offenses, you need to contact a smart, experienced criminal defense attorney in Charlottesville today. Bryan J. Jones is committed to his clients and puts forth defense strategies that work.