Simple Legal Guide | Online Solicitation of a Minor

Ignorantia juris non excusat. In English, ignorance of the law excuses no one from compliance therewith. As citizens of the United States, you must know state and federal laws. 

Online solicitation of a minor may seem harmless, but the law protects minors from these abusive acts. Online solicitation is the act of engaging online sexual conversations with minors on the internet. 

The minor

The keyword highlighted here is “minor.” The definition of “minor” is explicitly mentioned in Texas Penal Code 33.021 Online Solicitation of a Minor. In the code, a minor is defined as:

  1. an individual who is younger than 17 years of age; or

  2. an individual whom the actor believes to be younger than 17 years of age.

The first provision of the definition of a minor mentions the explicit nature of a minority. To be a minor, the individual must be below 17 years old. If the person engaging with the minor—referred to as “actor” in the code—does not have any knowledge of minority, the actor’s belief of minority will suffice.

For the second provision to hold, the actor must not know that the person he’s (she’s) chatting with online is below 17 years old. If so, then his assumption of minority holds if he (she) thinks that he (she) is talking with a minor.

Sexually explicit manner

Online solicitation of a minor involves online communication between the minor and the actor. The code emphasizes that communication must be intentional and in a sexually explicit manner.

The code defines a sexually explicit manner as any “means any communication, language, or material, including a photographic or video image, that relates to or describes sexual conduct.”

In other words, sending nude photos qualifies as a sexually explicit manner. But, the code includes communication and language as elements of sexually explicit manners. Thus, talking “dirty” to a minor is still covered under this provision.

Sexual assault of a child

Online solicitation law protects minors from sexual abuse even before the perpetrator and minor-victim meets in person. However, engagements with minors resulting in sexual assault are beyond the coverage of online solicitation.

Section 22.01 covers the aggravated sexual assault of a child. The section is lengthy and too technical, but in summary, this section includes forceful and injurious sexual intercourse with a minor.

If a person who has been charged under Section 22.01 performs the same act, they will be subjected to a super-aggravated sexual assault of a child. However, this law will also apply if the sexual act was committed to a minor who is below six years.

Improper teacher-student relationship

Texas code section 21.12 covers improper student/teacher relationships. Under this provision, teachers are in violation if:

  1. They engage in sexual contact with a student enrolled in a primary or secondary school where they work

  2. They are licensed or required to be licensed

  3. They provide educational services to the student

The provision, however, does not apply to college and university professors. But, the rules apply broadly in different cases, which means that there is still an improper relationship even if the teacher is working at another school and the student enrolled in another.

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