If an adult engages in sexual online chat with a person who says they are over 18 but really a minor can the adult be charged?

UPDATED: Jan 4, 2013

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If an adult engages in sexual online chat with a person who says they are over 18 but really a minor can the adult be charged?

Also if any law were broken which state has the jurisdiction?

Asked on January 4, 2013 under Criminal Law, Texas


B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If an adult engages in a sexual online chat with a person who says they are over 18, but that person is really a minor, then the adult could potentially be charged with the felony offense of online solicitation of a minor.  However, if the minor represented that they were over 18 and the adult had no reason to believe that the other person was a minor, then it's not likely they will be convicted because the adult lacked the required intent-- which was to communicate sexually with a minor.  If the minor represented that they were over 18, but then sent pictures of them self that clearly demonstrated they were a minor, then the adult could possibly be arrested and convicted-- because there would then be some evidence of their knowledge and intent.

When it comes to online solicitation laws, multiple states may have jurisdiction, depending on the laws of each state.  In Texas, venue is proper in Texas if the owner of the computer equipment resides in Texas or in any county the computer was accessed by the child to receive the content.  So potentially, someone in New York could be charged with online solicitation in Texas if the child's computer was in Texas that received the sexual communications.  Not all states follow these rules.  However, even if a state rule did not authorize jurisdiction or venue, the feds could also file charges because of the overlap in communication of state boundaries.

When an adult has any doubt about the age of the person they are talking to, they should probably cease communications to avoid any potential charges. 

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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