Recent federal and Ohio trends show an increase in arrests for possession of child pornography and other Internet sex crimes. The cause of the increase is likely due to to the push for law enforcement to reduce sex crimes involving minors. Law enforcement officers use many tactics to find online perpetrators; some include entrapment. To avoid facing felony sex crime charges, we will discuss the most common types of internet sex crimes and how to avoid committing them while you’re surfing the world wide web.
Common Internet Sex Crime Charges
First, it is important to note that both federal and state law stipulates that 18 years is the age of consent for internet sex. This is important to understand because the legal age of consent is generally 16, see Ohio State Legal Codes for more information regarding consent. Because states vary on what the legal age of consent is, federal law supersedes in regards to online erotica for the purposes of eliminating human trafficking and child sex exploitation. Regardless of the state in which the images are produced or viewed, visual sexual depictions of anyone under the age of 18 is a federal crime.
Importuning Solicitation: Importuning is the charge faced when an individual attempts to engage a minor in sexual activity of some type. This may also include solicitation charges if the attempt included an exchange of money for sexual pleasure. These are both pretty serious felony charges and the penalties include prison time and mandatory registration as a sex offender if charged in the state of Ohio. Penalties can be escalated if you are prosecuted federally.
Possession of Child Pornography: This is the charge filed when any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involves someone under the age of 18 years. This includes photographs, videos, digital or computer generated images indistinguishable from an identifiable, actual minor, and images created, adapted, or modified, but appear to depict an identifiable, actual minor. It also includes undeveloped film or videotape or electronically stored data. The explicit conduct does not require that the minor is engaged in a sex act, but is sufficiently sexually suggestive.
How to Avoid Internet Sex Crime Charges
#1 Don’t Produce, Share, or Store Child Pornography
The easiest way to avoid facing criminal charges for child pornography is to avoid having it. Don’t intentionally produce, share, or store sexually explicit images or videos of an underage person. If images or video are shared with you by another person, do not save it and do not share it. Be mindful of who uses your computer and what they share and store on it, as you could be held responsible.
#2 Avoid Viewing Child Pornography
When you are perusing the millions of pornographic videos and images on the web, avoid viewing minors. On the dark web, pop-ups and aggressive clickable ads can be overwhelming and it can be incredibly easy to click on or unintentionally view something you did not intend to. This, in itself is not a chargeable crime. However, if you click on the illegal content, download, or share it, it is a crime. It is perfectly legal to view pornographic websites that depict consenting adults engaging in consensual sex. Most of the content on these sites are categorized. To avoid unintentionally viewing child pornography, avoid searching keywords such as: barely legal, teen, 18 and younger, underage, or co-ed. If the description of the video includes any of those keywords, don’t view it. If the actor looks underage, they probably are.
#3 Do Not Solicit Sex Online
One of the most common ways that online sex crimes are charged is when a police officer poses as someone on the internet and someone else solicits sex. It doesn’t matter if you are on an online dating site with your internet partner, you should, in no way, offer to trade sex for money, regardless of the age of the participant. Avoid sexting or requesting sex from anyone online as it could easily be misconstrued. Even if the person you are speaking to presents themselves as someone of legal age, do not set up a meeting for the purposes of engaging in sexual activity. If you are in a chat room or otherwise and the person you are chatting with tells you or suggests that they are underage, immediately disconnect from them.
#4 Hire a Lawyer
If you do find yourself in a compromising situation, hire a lawyer right away. Sex crimes charges can be incredibly damaging. Many people are under the false assumption that if one is innocent, the charges will be dropped and go away. This is, unfortunately, not entirely true. When you hire a lawyer, it is important to have someone on your side who is familiar with the laws and will fight for your, aggressively. At Probst Law Office, Inc. in Columbus, we take complex sex crime cases seriously. Contact us to schedule a free consultation, for experience you can trust.