A handful of people are being charged with solicitation after a police sting in Houston led to them allegedly trying to meet a minor for sexual favors. As with many of these incidents, entrapment might be a strong defense for those facing these serious accusations.
Nine Arrested in Houston Child Solicitation Sting
According to the initial reports, several police agencies in the Houston area combined forces to conduct a sting for child predators online. These techniques often involve a police officer posing as a young teenager by filling out an online profile and persona and then loitering in online chatrooms until someone initiates contact. The online relationship grows until the undercover officer agrees to meet the other person face-to-face.
In this particular sting, police made nine arrests. Each person is likely to be charged with online solicitation of a minor.
Online Solicitation of a Minor is a Felony
Texas Penal Code § 33.021 outlines the offense of online solicitation of a minor, which involves knowingly soliciting someone under 17 – or someone believed to be under 17 – to meet with someone for the purpose of engaging in a sexual act.
Importantly, a meeting does not actually have to end up happening for the law to be broken.
Online solicitation of a minor is a second-degree felony in Texas and comes with between two and 20 years in jail as well as a fine of up to $10,000.
Additionally, there is a federal law that could also be implicated in an online solicitation of a minor situation: 18 U.S.C. § 2422 prohibits using “the mail or any facility or means of interstate or foreign commerce” – including the internet – to solicit a minor for sex. Jail terms under this federal law are far harsher than Texas' parallel state law, with sentences ranging from 10 years to life.
The Defense of Entrapment
Stings like these are an important part of how law enforcement works: They want to set up situations where people “take the bait” and commit a crime.
However, there is a fine line between passively setting up a potentially incriminating situation and coercing someone into doing something that they would not have done, otherwise. When police force someone into committing a crime that they would not have committed were it not for the coercion, then police are said to entrap their suspect. The classic example of police entrapping someone is by using an undercover cop to offer someone a million dollars for a sexual act – it would be prostitution, but a lot of perfectly innocent and reasonable people would consider taking the risk at that price.
Entrapment is an important legal defense and is particularly common in prostitution or solicitation charges, or any other charge stemming from a police sting. The key is showing that police actively coerced a suspect into committing a crime.
Hire Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer Doug Murphy
Doug Murphy is a criminal defense lawyer who represents the accused in Houston. Contact him online or call his law office at (713) 229-8333 if you have been charged with a crime in the area.