Fairfax Lawyer Explains Computer Solicitation Law under Virginia Code 18.2-374.3 and Legal Defenses
In the digital age, understanding computer laws is crucial. In Virginia, one such law is the Computer Solicitation Law under Virginia Code 18.2-374.3. This is referred to sometimes as "Traveler" cases and generally means adults trying to entice or lure children, over the internet, to commit sexual acts. Often times you see these cases in the news when police officers conduct a sting operation. That is an operation where undercover officers pretend to be children online.
Under Virginia Code 18.2-374.3, computer solicitation is defined as using a communication system to solicit or encourage a minor to perform an illegal act, including but not limited to, sexual acts.
The law applies to any person who uses a computer or any communication system to engage with a minor inappropriately. The law is strict and violators could face severe consequences.
A communication system is:
Person or direct contact through an agent, any print medium, United States maikl, any common carrier or communication common carrier, any electronic communications system, the Internet, or any telecommunications, wire, computer network, or radio communications system.
To be found guilty of this crime the Commonwealth must show:
- A person used a communications system
- With lascivious intent
- For the purposes of soliciting a child he has reason to believe is under 18 years old
- To expose their genitals OR feel or fondle their own genitals or propose sexual acts such as intercourse, anal intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, or anilingus OR entice, allure, persuade a child to enter any vehicle, room, house, or other place with the intent to do one of the above acts
The Importance of Understanding the Law
Why it matters
Understanding this law is essential to avoid accidental violations and to protect minors. It's also crucial for those facing charges under this law to comprehend what they're up against.
Violations can result in hefty fines, imprisonment, and mandatory registration as a sex offender. The exact penalties depend on the circumstances of the case. The punishment can vary based on the age of the child.
- If the child is ages 15-17: Class 6 felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison
- If the child is under the age 15
- And the accused is 18 years or older: Class 6 felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison
- And the accused is 18 years or older and 7 years older than the child: Felony punishable by 5 to 30 years in prison. 5 of which are mandatory (meaning you must serve at least 5 years)
The Role of a Lawyer
A Fairfax lawyer's role is to explain the nuances of the law, guide the accused through the legal process, and provide a robust defense.
Common Legal Questions
Lawyers often answer questions such as "What constitutes a violation?", "What are my rights?", and "What are the potential legal defenses?".
Understanding Legal Defenses
Legal Defense Basics
Legal defenses vary based on the specific details of the case. A good lawyer will examine all aspects of the case to identify the best defense strategy.
Possible Defenses for Computer Solicitation
Some defenses may include:
- Lack of intent – Perhaps the messages weren't meant to be lascivious (sexual) and were misinterpreted. Or maybe the messages were meant for someone other than the minor.
- Lack of knowledge – the statute requires the accused knew or had reason to know the age of a child. This is not always obvious and can be a defense. Especially if the child lied on the messages.
- Lack of foundation – These crimes require use of electronic evidence and a number of preliminary steps are required for them to be admissible
- Entrapment – It's possible the police entrapped the accused during a sting operation. This depends very much on the circumstances behind the communications but it is possible
- Mental Health – There are statutes that allow for introduction of mental health evidence. Some people suffer from syndromes that can cause erratic behavior they may not have otherwise engaged in
The Role of Evidence in Computer Solicitation Cases
Types of Evidence
Evidence in these cases could include chat logs, witness testimonies, and digital forensic reports.
Importance of Evidence
Evidence plays a significant role in these cases. A piece of evidence can potentially prove or disprove the allegations. Therefore, it's essential to handle and present the evidence correctly to support the legal defense.
How Evidence is Used
In a courtroom, evidence is analyzed to establish the facts of the case. For instance, chat logs can be used to determine the nature of the interaction between the accused and the minor. Photos of the minor can be introduced to prove age. The minor or their parent may also testify.
Advice for Those Accused of Computer Solicitation
Consult with an Attorney
If you are accused of computer solicitation, it's essential to consult with Mr. Tyler Bezilla immediately. Legal advice can significantly influence the outcome of your case. Mr. Tyler Bezilla has handled many solicitation cases and is very familiar with the defenses and arguments used in court. Call him today for a free consultation.
Protect Your Rights
An attorney can help protect your rights throughout the legal process. Understanding your rights is vital to ensure that you're treated fairly.
In conclusion, understanding the Computer Solicitation Law under Virginia Code 18.2-374.3 is crucial in today's digital world. Violations can lead to severe consequences, and the law is complex. Therefore, anyone facing charges under this law should consult with a Fairfax lawyer immediately. With their expertise, they can explain the law, guide you through the legal process, and provide a robust defense.
- What is the Computer Solicitation Law under Virginia Code 18.2-374.3? It is a law that makes it illegal to use a communication system to solicit or encourage a minor to perform an illegal act, such as sexual acts.
- Why is understanding this law important? Understanding this law is crucial to avoid accidental violations, protect minors, and to comprehend the charges if you're accused under this law.
- What is the role of a Fairfax lawyer in these cases? A Fairfax lawyer can explain the law, guide the accused through the legal process, and provide a robust defense.
- What are some possible legal defenses for computer solicitation? Some possible defenses include lack of intent, mistaken identity, or the minor misrepresented their age.
- Why is evidence important in these cases? Evidence can potentially prove or disprove the allegations. It is used to establish the facts of the case in a courtroom.