Cyberspace Fertile Grounds For Sex Crimes [infographic]

The internet exposes young children to potential dangers that are far more real and more immediate than they faced in previous decades. In response, the state of Minnesota enacted strict internet sex crime laws to punish offenders and deter future predators. Unfortunately, the broad nature of the law allows innocent people to be charged with sex crimes.

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Types Of Internet Sex Crimes

Minnesota statutes established specific rules for four categories of internet sex crimes a criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis can defend.

Child Pornography

Child pornography describes a wide range of images and video that depict sexual activity by anyone under the age of 18. To be considered child pornography, the the child in the material must:

  • Be engaged in explicit sexual conduct OR
  • Engage in simulated sexual conduct OR
  • Appear nude or near nude OR
  • Present genitals in a lewd way

Even with these rules in place, the courts still use a set of guidelines, known as the “Dost Test” to determine whether or not material is child pornography. The test addresses the issue of intent: namely if the material was produced to evoke a sexual response from the viewer and if the material was intended to convey the potential for sexual activity.

While some cases are easy to identify, there are large gray areas in the law. Individuals may be charged with possession of child pornography if the images depict an adult who is made to look as a child or if a child’s face is placed on an adult’s body in an explicit image. The reality is that there are few standard definitions of child pornography, and because every image or video represents a separate charge, a Minneapolis criminal defense lawyer must be prepared to fight each scrap of evidence.

Sexting With A Child

The ubiquity of camera phones created a new category of sex crimes: sexting with minors. Sexting represents a legal minefield for anyone caught receiving explicit images from a minor. Under both state law and the federal PROTECT Act, receiving a sext message from a minor can lead to charges for possession of child pornography for the recipient, even if the person sending the pictures consented to them, and even if the person receiving the pictures is also under age.

The charges become more serious when a person receives a sext message and shares it with friend, or sends the image to another party. If that occurs, the original recipient of the sext can be charged with not only possession of child pornography, but distribution as well. Asking for suggestive pictures from a minor is also an aggravating factor, and may lead to additional charges.

Promotion of Prostitution

The internet is the perfect platform for prostitutes or call girls to find clients. Anyone who uses the internet for solicitation of sex can be charged with solicitation. The crime changes to promotion of prostitution when the accused prompts another party to exchange sexual favors for money. Additional charges can be levied for persons who promote prostitution for individuals under 18, or who coordinates prostitution on behalf of individuals under 18.

Stalking and Harassment

Women are the primary victims of internet stalking and harassment, which led the state to categorize these crimes as sex crimes. Elements of stalking and harassment may include:

  • Direct threats
  • Following the victim
  • Making repeated phone calls
  • Placing fake orders to the victim’s address

As written, the law favors the accuser, leaving the prosecution without the need to demonstrate clear proof of specific intent to harm the accuser. The state only has to prove that the accuser felt threatened or intimidated by the actions of the accused.

Because stalking and harassment charges typically include a gendered element, punishment for a conviction may be elevated under the hate crimes rules. Other mitigating factors that can increase the severity of the charges include harassment of a minor or a member of the court. A Minneapolis criminal defense lawyer may be able to remove the mitigating factors or negotiate a lesser charge for non-violent harassment charges.

Moving Quickly

An internet sex crimes charge can have severe and immediate implications for the accused. Even before the case goes before a court, public opinion can paint the accused as guilty and place a lifelong stigma on their character.

More importantly, sex crimes almost always necessitate registration in the Sex Offender database. Once registered, individuals lose many rights, such as the freedom to live where they choose, and their employment options are severely limited. Registration may occur even in a plea arrangement, so it is vital that the accused fight back vigorously and using every tool available.

Defending against sex crimes is a complicated process with very high stakes. Only an experienced Minneapolis criminal defense trial lawyer is prepared for the challenges of the defense.

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Involve a criminal appeal attorney soon after you learn the prosecution is appealing your sentence. Your attorney will walk you through the involving and confusing sentencing guidelines. An attorney's involvement will also help you develop a defense strategy for the appeal.