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Can You Go to Jail for Talking to a Minor Online?

Can You Go to Jail for Talking to a Minor Online?

Can You Go to Jail for Talking to a Minor Online?

Today, more than 72% of Americans are active users of social media. In a nation with ever-evolving technology and ways to connect, it’s no surprise that our laws are designed to include crimes committed on the internet.

Internet crimes can entail serious consequences. The internet not only offers us a false sense of anonymity, but can also open the door to misinterpretation, false accusations, and other gray areas.

The reigning era of Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and other social media platforms has made it all too easy to connect with others regardless of physical distance. Unfortunately, not everyone we meet online is who they claim or appear to be, which means that errors in judgment can be inevitable.

Soliciting a minor online can result in more than prison time and fines. If convicted, you may be required to register as a sex offender. Because South Carolina’s sex offender registry is permanent, a conviction can result in lifelong repercussions as being a sex offender can tarnish your reputation, limit job prospects, and affect your relationships.

To avoid life-altering penalties, it’s crucial to understand how the state of South Carolina defines sex crimes and the consequences you face if convicted.

What Is Online Solicitation of a Minor?

Under South Carolina law, it’s a crime to knowingly contact, communicate with, or attempt to communicate with a minor for the purpose of soliciting them to engage in sexual activity.

In South Carolina, a minor is defined as a person under the age of 18. It’s important to understand that even if you never meet up with the person you’re contacting or attempting to contact, you can still be charged with online solicitation of a minor under state and federal law.

Penalties for Soliciting a Minor Online in SC

Soliciting a minor is a felony in South Carolina. Offenders may face:

  • Up to 10 years in prison
  • Up to a $5,000 fine

Penalties for sex crimes involving a minor aren’t limited to a prison sentence. Offenders who solicit a minor online may also be required to register as sex offenders. As you can imagine, this can be just as costly as fines or jail time, as being a registered sex offender can expose you to harmful stigmas and change the course of your life forever.

Sex offenders can face various restrictions, including:

  • Difficulty finding and retaining employment
  • Loss of voting rights
  • Inability to own a firearm
  • Inability to leave the state without permission
  • Inability to live within a certain distance of schools, parks, and other community facilities
  • Limited internet access

Moreover, registering as a sex offender can make your information known to the public, including your name, address, and photograph.

What Qualifies as Online Solicitation of a Minor?

Soliciting a minor online isn't limited to social media accounts. Offenses can include the use of smartphones and landlines alike. Contact may also be made via text messages, chatrooms, messaging apps, and email.

It’s worth noting that you can only be convicted if you engaged with a minor in a sexually explicit manner. Talking to a minor on the internet isn’t inherently illegal. It all comes down to your purpose for contacting the other person. Suggestive language or requests that are sexual in nature can result in being charged with a sex crime.

Examples of qualifying acts to solicit a minor online include:

  • Texting a sexual joke or suggestive comment
  • Requesting to meet up in person
  • Soliciting a sexual favor in a chatroom
  • Requesting nude photos via text
  • Emailing pornographic material
  • Exposing oneself during a video call

While this isn’t a comprehensive list of qualifying behaviors for online solicitation of a minor, the bottom line is that using the internet to engage in sexually explicit conversation, distribute or exchange sexual materials, or request sexual favors or meetings is illegal and can result in criminal charges.

Legal Defenses for Online Solicitation of a Minor

Being accused of soliciting a minor online can be terrifying. Maybe you weren’t aware that you were interacting with a minor in the first place. Maybe the other person was the first to initiate a sexually explicit conversation or propose an in-person meeting.

Whatever the case, rest assured that there are ways to defend yourself in court. It’s absolutely essential to secure support from a trusted criminal defense attorney, as you’ll undoubtedly rely on their experience, legal knowledge, and advocacy to obtain a favorable outcome in court.

A skilled defense lawyer can determine which legal strategy is most beneficial to your case and collaborate with you to execute the defense effectively in court. Consider the following defenses against online solicitation of a minor:

  • Entrapment. The era of social media can create a ripe opportunity for undercover law enforcement officers. If you were charged with a sex crime as a result of a sting operation, you may argue that, as a normally law-abiding citizen, you wouldn’t have engaged in the illicit activity if not coerced or persuaded by law enforcement. Keep in mind that this can be a tricky strategy to execute, especially for defendants with a prior criminal record.
  • Age and consent. If there is evidence that the minor consented to the activity and the age gap between the minor and yourself is 3 years or less, this may be an effective strategy to employ in your defense.
  • Marriage. You cannot be charged with solicitation of a minor if you were married to them when the activity occurred.
  • Lack of intent. This defense argues that you were unaware you were speaking with a minor. If this strategy is employed, it’s the responsibility of the prosecution to prove that you knew you were in contact with someone under 18. This may also be an effective strategy if you had no intention of soliciting sex or engaging in a sexually explicit discussion with the person.

Diligently Defending the Rights of the Accused

Being charged with a sex crime can be daunting. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed by the harsh penalties you’re facing. If you’ve been charged with a sex crime in South Carolina, it’s crucial to turn to a legal advocate who will defend your rights and protect your best interests.

The consequences of a criminal conviction are lifelong. That’s why our experienced sex crime defense attorneys are here to ensure your voice is heard and your side of the story is told. The Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC takes pride in executing legal strategies that are specifically tailored to our clients' unique needs. If you're in need of aggressive legal representation and a loyal defense, our firm has you covered.

Are you facing criminal charges in South Carolina? It’s imperative to turn to an experienced attorney for help. Call (803) 359-3301 or contact us online today to schedule your confidential case evaluation. 


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