Social networks have changed the way we communicate. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram give people access to all kinds of information and make people free to meet many new people. Unfortunately this also presents new opportunities to run afoul of the law. If inappropriate communication occurs between an adult and child, it could potentially lead to serious penalties.
Problems can arise because people are not always who they claim to be. For instance, one party may claim to be of age when the adult contacts them. They may lead the person to believe that these communications are between two adults when in actuality one party is a minor. This can lead to serious penalties even when someone thinks they are obeying the law. Even if the person is unaware that the person on the other computer is a minor, they will be charged with a crime all the same. The standard for this charge is a person “knowingly or has a reason to believe” the person solicited is a child. Therefore a child is not necessary to prove this, only that the person charged had reason to believe they were speaking to a child.
Likewise, the person on the other end doesn’t even have to be a child to get another person in trouble for computer solicitation of a minor. There has recently been a rash of vigilante groups who have taken it upon themselves to catch “predators” and other people they deem as threats to society. This can lead to people online minding their own business when they are suddenly contacted out of the blue by a person representing themselves as a child. If the person does not take pains to cut off the communication immediately, they may find themselves engaged in a conversation that breaks the law.
Similar to computer pornography charges, a charge of computer solicitation of a child (legally known as § 18.2-374.3 – “Use of communications systems to facilitate certain offenses involving children”) requires a great deal of technical knowledge as well as legal knowledge. These cases can be very complex and require such knowledge in order to fully defend against these serious crimes. The attorneys at The Law Office of Patrick N. Anderson have such knowledge as well as access to many computer experts who can help craft a defense for the defendant.
A skilled attorney is necessary because these charges can carry significant penalties. In Virginia solicitation of a child is a Class 5 felony, meaning that it can carry with it a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $2,500. Additionally a person may be required to register as a sex offender which is considered public information. This means that your friends, neighbors, and family will all be aware of your sex offender status. It is imperative that a skilled attorney starts working on your defense right away in order to prevent these life altering punishments.