West Chester Online Solicitation Offense Lawyer
If you have been charged with online solicitation, you could be facing serious penalties in the state of Pennsylvania, and could face federal charges as well. Federal law prohibits the use of electronic media to solicit sexual acts. If the charges involve a child—Online Solicitation of a Minor—the federal penalties could include a prison sentence as long as 30 years. If you have a prior sexual offense on your record, you could face enhanced penalties.
Soliciting another person for sexual favors, whether a child or adult, is against the law in Pennsylvania. The Internet has made it exceptionally easy for individuals to communicate with one another, and to solicit sex. All sex crimes, including online solicitation, are prosecuted heavily, particularly when there is a minor involved.
Undercover Sting Operations Result in Online Solicitation Charges
Law enforcement in the state as well as federal law enforcement officials rely heavily on undercover operations and “sting” operations which are meant to entrap those who are engaged in online solicitation. Unfortunately, in some instances, these sting operations may actually place an individual in a situation he or she would not normally be in.
In fact, some law enforcement officials may step across the line between lawful and unlawful, in order to obtain a conviction. You are not required, under Pennsylvania law, to actually engage in the sex act you were soliciting, however your act of solicitation must be more than just a comment about your availability. It must be clear from your communications, that you are seeking sexual services, or that you are making an overt attempt to entice or induce a minor or another adult to commit a sexual act.
Felony Charges for Online Solicitation of a Minor in the State of Pennsylvania
While the crime of general solicitation is a misdemeanor in the state, it can be charged as a felony. Online solicitation of a minor is a felony offense in Pennsylvania, with extremely harsh penalties. In fact, for charges of online solicitation of a minor, it is less likely the prosecutor will be open to a potential plea bargain, as he or she may be seeking the harshest sentence—one which will result in registration as a sex offender after you have served your time and paid your required fines and fees.
When you are charged with using the Internet to solicit a minor for sex, you may be facing a federal crime. If convicted of this federal crime, you could face a minimum of ten years in a federal prison, and, conceivably, a life sentence. Engaging in the actual sexual act you solicited with the minor is a separate offense, with separate—and equally harsh—penalties. In the state of Pennsylvania, Online Solicitation of a Minor may be filed as Corruption of Minors of a Sexual Nature, a charge which carries a prison sentence of up to ten years and a fine of $10,000 if you are found guilty.
Charges of Online Solicitation May Hinge on Your Computer Files
Because online solicitation involves the Internet and computers, the forensic evidence which will be used in court can be extremely technical, including an investigation of your hard drive and online history. There is a problem, however, in that, in some cases, others can download things onto your hard drive, without your knowledge. These can remain in hidden files until your computer is confiscated and suddenly the police are accusing you of having files on your computer you knew nothing about.
This is generally more common in child pornography cases, but could potentially occur in an online solicitation case as well. For this reason, and because of the harsh penalties associated with the crime, it is imperative that you have an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney by your side who can aggressively challenge the forensic evidence presented by the prosecutor. Your attorney will investigate how the search and seizure was conducted, and determine whether your rights were violated. Establishing a solid foundation to defend you against charges of online solicitation can be an uphill climb, however the prosecutor has the burden of proof.
What to Do If You Have Been Charges with the Crime of Online Solicitation
If you have been charged with any sexual offense in the state of Pennsylvania, it is imperative that you immediately hire an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney. Your Pennsylvania attorney can take an in-depth look at the evidence against you, then clearly explain your options. There are certain things, however, that you can do to help yourself, and to help your attorney properly defend you. First of all, do not allow the police to search your home or your computer unless they have a valid search warrant in hand. If you are held in custody overnight—and even if you are not—do not, under any circumstances, talk to the police.
Do not answer questions, do not try to explain your side of the story. You are only required to give your name and address, so once you have done that, politely refuse to answer any more questions until your attorney arrives. Don’t text or e-mail others about your charges, and absolutely do not post anything on social media about your online solicitation charges. When you meet with your attorney, help them help you by providing as much information as possible about the facts of your case. The sooner your attorney is on your case, the better he or she will be able to help you, and to obtain the most positive outcome possible for your charges.
Contact Our West Chester Sexual Assault Attorneys
If the police made mistakes in your arrest, or in taking your computer, or if their evidence is simply very thin, your attorney may be able to have your charges dropped altogether. Otherwise, your Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney may be able to have the charges reduced to a lesser offense, with lesser penalties. Contact an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney today to help you with your charges of online solicitation.
The criminal defense attorneys of Ciccarelli Law Offices have successfully represented individuals throughout the state of Pennsylvania that have been accused of sexual assault crimes. Our Chester County based law firm is based at 304 North High Street, West Chester PA 19380 and serves clients in Kennett Square, Downingtown, West Chester, Coatesville, , Chester Springs, Chadds Ford, Landenberg, Honey Brook, Oxford, Malvern, Parkesburg, Phoenixville and . Contact us now at (610) 692-8700 or call toll free (877) 529-2422. Don’t wait—contact an attorney immediately.