Lately, there has been an uptick in the number of sexual online solicitation of a minor in Virginia sting operations. Frequently, they are executed by joint task forces between the Loudoun County Sherriff’s office, Fairfax State Police and the Prince William County Police Department.
When a sting operation of this nature is conducted, they are either prosecuted by the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney, Loudoun County Commonwealth Attorney or Prince William County Commonwealth Attorney. This is entirely dependent on where the alleged offender is arrested or by the agency that initiated the communication.
Regardless of which jurisdiction is prosecuting the offense, it is critical to hire an sexual online solicitation of a minor attorney in Virginia who knows the different agencies and the police officers who are involved in the sting operation.
The anatomy of how these sting operations are setup is strikingly similar. The following is a very common fact pattern of how these stings are executed:
First, the lead agency will place an ad in craigslist. Once contact is made with an alleged offender, the primary officer on the case will ask the individual they are targeting to start communicating with them on KIK. The officer will tell you at least once, if not more often that they are 14 or almost 15. This still makes the alleged victim of the chat 14 years old.
Let me tell you this first and foremost, if you are approached by a 17 or younger female to chat, DON’T. If you however, do chat with the “female”, say very little as possible and do not communicate any sexual propositions via chat.
So what is online sexual solicitation of a minor per Virginia law in a nutshell?
- Propose to do something sexual
- To a minor
- Over a computer network or internet
Often the person who is talking to the alleged minor needs help in the form of mental health counseling. The individual may be very lonely or is suffering from depression or some form of anxiety.
During the process of chatting with an alleged minor, if you ask for nudes, this act can be deemed soliciting and an attempt to obtain child pornography in Virginia. Frequently, those charged with these types of offenses have a background in computers. Attempting to meet the minor will result in being charged with attempted indecent liberties in Virginia
Once a police officer has developed sufficient evidence to charge you with soliciting a minor online/via computer, they will obtain a search warrant to search your home for any electronic devices that may contain evidence of the crime. The search warrant will authorize them to seize your laptop, desktop, other electronic hardware such as hard drives and especially your phone.
Listen to this very carefully, DO NOT CONSENT TO TALK TO THE POLICE, no matter how nice they are to you. Immediately assert your RIGHT TO A LAWYER and say these magic words: “ I WANT MY LAWYER”. Do not give them access to your phone. Meaning, do not give them your passcode to your cell phone or any other device.
When they examine your electronic devices such as your cell phone, they will examine it to see if you have solicited other juvenile children online or whether the device possesses any child pornography.
Craigslist requires you to be 18 to post in their classifieds. This may be a defense. Do not be fooled into talking to the police. If you are arrested, you will be taken before a magistrate.
Charges that involve online solicitation of a minor or child pornography has a presumption against bond.
The possibility of getting bond on these types of charges for electronic solicitation of a minor online/via computer or possession of child pornography is hard, but not impossible if you can articulate the right set of facts to the court.
The Court will look at factors such as how long you have lived in Virginia, whether you are a flight risk, a danger to yourself or to the community.
Keep in mind, the alleged “victim” will often want to meet with you. If you are apprehended by the police, the police will often ask you if you are sorry for contacting a minor. Whether a 14 year old should be with an adult? Whether a 14 year old should have sexual contact with an adult?
The best answer to all these questions is the magic phrase: “I WANT MY LAWYER”
Keep in mind that the penalties for these kinds of offenses are extremely severe. There are mandatory minimums for these types of offenses. When you are facing any of these penalties, it can seem overwhelming. Understand that there are options.
The most important thing you can do is talk to a Virginia sex crimes lawyer who is experienced at defending these kinds of charges. Our law firm routinely defends clients charged with electronic solicitation of a minor via internet/online/computer and child pornography charges in Fairfax, City of Fairfax, Prince William (Manassas), Fauquier (Warrenton), Loudoun (Leesburg), Caroline, Stafford, Spotsylvania (Fredericksburg), Chesterfield, Henrico, Arlington, Culpeper, Richmond, Alexandria, Warren (Front Royal), Clarke, Shenandoah, King George, Charles City, Frederick (Winchester), Fredericksburg, Gloucester, Hanover, Hopewell, James City, King & Queen, King William, New Kent, Newport News, Petersburg, Prince George, Rappahannock and York. B