In recent years, the internet has spurred a whole new area of crime. Increasingly, people use their computers to commit criminal offenses. These crimes range from identity theft and financial crimes to sex crimes like child pornography and solicitation of prostitution.
Like other states, Texas punishes sex crimes that are carried out on the internet. For example, it’s a crime in Texas to transmit certain types of sexual images over the internet, whether by emailing them or posting them to a website. In some cases, these types of sex crimes are prosecuted under state law. However, if the individual uses a computer and the internet to cross state lines — even virtually — the crime is often prosecuted in federal court.
In some cases, people don’t realize that their actions online are against the law. For some people, the internet feels different than real life, and they make a distinction between what happens online and what happens in person. However, certain types of sexual behavior and communication are crimes under both Texas and federal law. In most cases, online sex crimes are classified as crimes because they involve a lack of consent. It’s also worth noting that a minor is by law deemed to be incapable of consent.
Not only does Texas law punish internet sex crimes, some of the punishments can be severe. The felony charges associated with internet sex crimes can land a person in prison for decades. Additionally, an individual convicted of an internet sex crime in Texas may be required to register as a sex offender — sometimes for a lifetime. This can cause irreparable damage to the person’s reputation, derail their career, and even stop them from pursuing certain careers.
The Unlawful Disclosure or Promotion of Intimate Visual Material
Under Section 21.16(d) of the state penal code, it is a crime to post certain kinds of images online. The statute makes it a crime to post intimate visual material that reveals someone’s private areas without their permission. It’s also illegal to post images in cases in which the person depicted had a reason to believe the images would stay private. These types of offenses are punishable as a misdemeanor.
Display of Harmful Material to a Minor
Section 43.24 of the Texas criminal code makes it a crime to use the internet to display harmful material, which can include nude images, sexual imagery, or materials deemed to have no redeeming value for underage individuals.
In most cases, these types of offenses are punishable as a class A misdemeanor, however, they can be bumped up to a felony if a minor is included in the images. A felony conviction can result in years in prison, significant monetary fines, and mandatory registration as a sex offender.
Possession or Promotion of Child Pornography
Under Section 43.26 of the Texas penal code, it’s a crime if a person “knowingly or intentionally possesses, or knowingly or intentionally accesses with intent to view, visual material that visually depicts a child younger than 18 years of age at the time the image of the child was made who is engaging in sexual conduct…”
Possessing or even viewing child pornography carries harsh penalties that include up to 20 years in prison, fines up to $10,000, and possibly even a lifetime registration as a sex offender. It’s important to note that simply accessing child pornography online is considered the same as possessing it. An individual doesn’t necessarily have to trade or distribute these types of images to be prosecuted under the statute.
Online Solicitation of a Minor
It’s also a felony offense in Texas to use the internet to engage in communication with a minor that is sexually explicit. This type of behavior can include using the internet to persuade an underage individual to meet in person for sex or using the internet to communicate with a minor in a sexual way. Defendants accused of online solicitation of a minor can raise an affirmative defense if they were less than three years older than the minor involved in the communication, and the minor consented to the sexual communication.
Individuals convicted of online solicitation of a minor can face up to 10 years in prison, fines up to $10,000, and the requirement to register as a sex offender.
Talk to a Lawyer About Defense for Internet Sex Crimes
Anyone who has been accused of an internet sex crime should consider speaking to an experienced criminal defense lawyer. A conviction for an internet sex crime can result in serious consequences, including a loss of freedom and permanent damage to an individual’s reputation. If you have been charged with an internet sex crime in federal court, it’s also important to work with a criminal defense lawyer who has experience defending cases in federal court.