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Georgia Solicitation of a Child

Top Sex Crimes Attorneys in Georgia

Solicitation of a Child & Internet Sting Operations

Solicitation of a minor is a serious internet sex crime that is treated harshly under Georgia law. The attorneys at Johnson/Citronberg have extensive experience in defending people accused of online solicitation of a minor. From our office in Atlanta, our sex crimes attorneys have successfully handled these cases across Georgia, and we work tirelessly to defend our clients and their reputations.

Online Solicitation of a Child

Under Georgia law, online solicitation of a child is a felony offense, which can be found at Georgia Code § 16-12-100.2. The law makes it unlawful to use an electronic device or Internet service to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice a child to engage in offenses related to sodomy, child molestation, enticing a child for indecent purposes, public indecency, or “to engage in any conduct that by its nature is an unlawful sexual offense against a minor.”

For this statute, Georgia law defines “child” as anyone under 16 years old.

The Penalties if Convicted of Solicitation of a Child 

Under Georgia law, a person convicted of solicitation of a child can be sentenced up to 20 years in prison and receive a fine of up to $25,000. However, if the victim was at least 14 and the defendant was 18 or younger, the defendant will be found guilty of a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

Undercover Internet Sting Operations

People are typically arrested for this offense by either communicating online with an actual child or, more commonly, being caught in an undercover “internet sting operation.” During these sting operations, the police will create a fake online profile or a fake posting on a website or cellphone application. When someone responds, the officer will normally state that he or she is a child and then ask the person to send sexually explicit pictures or agree to meet somewhere. By sending a photo or agreeing to meet, the individual can find himself being charged with online solicitation of a child.

The best way to defend yourself against criminal charges is to hire a lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us today to discuss how we can help your case.

Defenses to Online Solicitation of a Child

People often wrongly assume that there are no defenses to solicitation of a minor charges. But in many cases, the person being charged did not believe that they were talking to an actual “child. In other cases, the person may have been entrapped by law enforcement. To understand these legal defenses, it is important to first understand the background of internet sting operations in Georgia.

Georgia’s internet sting operations are largely conducted by the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force which is comprised of law enforcement officers across Georgia. This Task Force is federally funded, and the amount of funds that it receives from the federal government is dependent on the number of people who are arrested in internet sting operations. Because the Task Force is motivated by the number of arrests, the members of the Task Force often engage in aggressive and unfair tactics. The result is that many innocent people are charged.

Defenses: You Didn’t Know it was a Child

To get a conviction, the government has to show that the defendant  “intentionally or willfully” solicited a child or “another person believed by such person to be a child.” Undercover officers will often engage in tactics to lead someone to think that they are talking to an adult. If the defendant did not believe the child was underage, there can be no conviction. An experienced internet sex crimes attorney will examine all of the surrounding circumstances (e.g., platform used, chat name, language used, length of the chat, exchanged photographs, etc.), to determine if this is a viable defense.

Here are some common tactics that we’ve seen law enforcement use to confuse or mislead someone into thinking they’re talking to an adult:

  • Use a website or cellphone app that is for adults only.
  • Mention their age in passing and only once.
  • List an age on their profile that is 18 or older (or blank).
  • Send photographs of themselves depicting an adult (we had one case where the photograph in question was of a 35-year-old woman but with a filter to make her appear younger).
  • Target users in chats labeled “role play,” “fantasy,” or something similar.
  • Use language to suggest that he or she is actually an adult engaged in role play.
  • Engage in multiple chats with the same individual over days, weeks, or months (while only mentioning their age in a prior chat).

We have seen a number of cases where the undercover officer only briefly mentions an age in passing. If there is a long chat (or multiple chats) or if the individual was talking with many people at the same time, it is entirely plausible that he simply didn’t pay attention to the stated age or that he forgot what the officer stated earlier in the chat. We have also seen cases where our client fully believed that he was simply engaged in role play chat with an adult, and the officer used language to reinforce this belief.

Defenses: You Were Entrapped

An individual cannot be guilty solicitation of a child if they were entrapped by law enforcement into committing the offense. Under Georgia Code § 16-3-25, entrapment consists of two things: 1) the undercover officer induced the defendant to commit the crime; and 2) the defendant would not have committed the act except for the conduct of the officer. Inducement generally means that the idea to commit the offense originated with the police, that the police used undue persuasion, and that the person would not have committed the act except for the police conduct.

In our experience, the most important element in any entrapment defense is establishing that the person would not have committed the crime but for the actions of the police. This means that the defense lawyer’s job is to show that his client never would have agreed to send a picture, or to meet with the child, if it wasn’t for the manner in which the sting operation was conducted.

To do this, we gather as much evidence as we can to show that our client had no sexual interest in children. This means gathering witnesses (such as family members, close friends, and prior lovers) to testify about our client’s traits and that our client was never interested in children. As discussed below, we also use psychological experts and computer forensic experts to bolster this defense. We also closely scrutinize the chats themselves to see if our client was reluctant to continue the chats, if the officer attempted to persuade our client into doing or saying something, and if the officer violated any ICAC rules or regulations.

Using Expert Witnesses

In addition to analyzing all the surrounding circumstances of the chats in question, a good sex crimes attorney will also employ expert witnesses to reinforce the defense’s theory of the case. To support the defense that the defendant did not know the age of the “child,” a psychologist or psychiatrist can perform a psychosexual evaluation on the defendant and then testify that the defendant is not sexually interested in children. Similarly, with an entrapment defense, a psychologist or psychiatrist can testify that the defendant lacked the motive to solicit a minor. Such testimony is powerful evidence that the defendant never intended to commit a crime and is therefore innocent.

The defense can also employ a computer forensic expert to show that the defendant never chatted with other children and that his computer history only showed an interest in adults (e.g., search history, search terms, adult pornography).

Contact Us

Our Georgia criminal defense lawyers know how to defend against charges alleging online solicitation of a child. We have helped dozens of clients obtain pretrial dismissals and reductions. If you or someone you know is facing an online solicitation of a child charge, contact our firm for immediate help. We have an office in Atlanta, and we represent clients throughout Georgia.

Contact Johnson/Citronberg, PLLC
(703) 684-8000

Our experienced attorneys have the ability and resources to handle even the most complex criminal defense matters.