When a person is accused of communicating online with a minor for the purposes of sexual contact, the case will typically be prosecuted under one of Georgia’s child exploitation statutes.
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These cases are different than the internet sting operations as they will usually involve communications with an actual minor. In addition to the great success we have had defending internet sting cases in Georgia, our sex crime defense attorneys have also been quite successful in representing clients accused of communicating with minors online.
There are essentially three statutes in Georgia that are designed to prosecute unlawful sexual communications with minors online. These deal with soliciting sexual images of minors, electronically furnishing sexual material to minors, and communicating with minors online for the purpose of engaging in sexual conduct.
Under O.C.G.A §16-12-100.1, it is unlawful to electronically furnish sexually explicit material to a minor.
The State must prove that the defendant knew this person was a minor or should have known that he or she was a minor. This is an important element of the offense as it provides a defense where the defendant is deceived into believing that he was communication with an adult. Therefore, if a minor lies about his or her age, and this misrepresentation is reasonably relied upon by the defendant, it will not constitute a crime.
Interestingly, this statute defines a minor as someone under the age of 18. This is despite the fact that it is perfectly legal to engage in sexual intercourse with someone who is 16 years of age or older. Thus, someone could lawfully have sex with a 16 or 17-year-old, but if they send sexually explicit material to them, they can be subject to prosecution under the statute. This is one of the most head-shaking inconsistencies in our Georgia sexual offense laws.
O.C.G.A §16-12-100, Georgia’s sexual exploitation of children statute, makes it a crime to persuade, induce, entice, or coerce any minor to engage in the creation of sexually explicit material.
This would typically occur when someone communicating with a minor has him or her take a naked picture or video. Even if the material does not depict sexual conduct, it is sufficient if it contains a lewd exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of the minor. It is important to note that a minor is defined in this statute as someone under the age of 18. Therefore, as noted above, a defendant could legally be able to have sex with the minor but not be able to encourage the taking of naked pictures of him or her.
O.C.G.A §16-12-100.2 makes it unlawful to use an online service or any form of electronic communication to either seduce, solicit, lure, or entice anyone believed by such person to be under the age of 16, for the purpose of engaging in a sexual act.
The two key differences here are that the statute requires the child to be under the age of 16 and the person must have the intent to engage in a sexual act with the child. Just as in internet sting cases, the person must actually believe that he is communicating with someone under 16. So, like the statute above, it is a defense when the child misrepresents his or her age which causes the defendant to believe he is actually communicating with an adult.
We have helped many clients wrongfully accused of this terrible offense.
For example, our client was charged after an officer posted an ad claiming to be an 18-year-old boy looking for someone to have sex with. When our client responded to the ad, the officer changed the boy’s age and said that he was just 15 years old. Our client continued to converse with the officer and eventually agreed to meet him to have sex. When our client arrived to meet the boy, he was immediately arrested with condoms in his possession.
The client was indicted in DeKalb County Superior Court for the offense of computer exploitation. We were able to show that our client would have never responded to this ad if he knew that the “boy” was only 15. Not only did the officer represent in the ad that he was 18 years old, but the picture that he sent to our client during their email chats was clearly of an 18 year-old boy. He even admitted to this during the preliminary hearing (Read More).
To learn more about how we’ve successfully defended other clients accused of online solicitation of minors across Georgia, review our results page.