What is an Internet Sex Crime?

What is an Internet Sex Crime?

by | Feb 12, 2019

In our post last week about common types of sex crimes, we discussed offenses like statutory rape, prostitution, lewd conduct, and sexual battery. But when prohibited sexual activity involves the use of the internet, it’s commonly referred to as an internet sex crime.

Internet sex crimes often involve minors, and a conviction typically means years in a California state prison. Those convicted will also have to endure a lifetime stigma of being a registered sex offender under Megan’s Law.

Types Of Internet Sex Crimes

The three most common types of internet sex crimes are: possessing or distributing child pornography, distributing harmful material to minors, and arranging (or attempting to arrange) a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes.

Child Pornography

Child pornography is legally defined as any material depicting sexual conduct by someone under 18 years old.

“Material” means any digital or printed pictures, film, or even slides. “Sexual conduct” includes sexual intercourse, anal intercourse, masturbation, oral copulation, or any exhibition of genitals or rectal area for the purpose of sexual stimulation.

In order for a prosecutor to obtain a conviction, they must be able to prove that the defendant knew the nature of the material, and also knew the material showed a minor participating in or simulating sexual conduct.

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Distributing Harmful Material to Minors

In the context of an internet sex crime, “harmful material” is defined as anything that shows or describes sexual conduct that any reasonable person would find offensive. Distributing this type of material to any minor is illegal.

For a defendant to be convicted of distributing harmful materials to a minor, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant:

  1. Knowingly sent harmful matter to a minor
  2. Knew they were a minor
  3. Had the specific intent to arouse the sexual desire of themselves or the minor

The charges can be brought as either a misdemeanor or felony, making it a “wobbler crime”. The severity of the case usually determines which level of charges are brought.

Arranging A Meeting With A Minor For Lewd Purposes

Not only is it, of course, illegal to physically meet with a minor for lewd purposes, but it is also illegal to attempt to arrange a meeting for that purpose. It doesn’t even matter if the meeting takes place or not. Simply attempting to set it up is a crime.

These arrangements are typically attempted via online chat rooms, social media, and text messages. This offense is also a wobbler crime, but if the defendant has a prior sex-related conviction, or is caught showing up at the meeting place, it will almost certainly be charged as a felony.

Working With A Criminal Defense Attorney

Those who are under investigation for, or who have been charged with, an internet sex crime often try and delete the material from their computer in the hope that destroying the evidence will make it impossible to prove their guilt.

Not only is this a bad idea, it is actually a crime in and of itself. Furthermore, forensic experts are very skilled are recovering files, internet browsing history, and chat logs that defendants have tried to erase.

Those facing prosecution for internet sex crimes should call an attorney immediately upon being charged. At Quinnan Law, we have the experience and expertise in defending cases with these types of evidence. To get help, please contact our offices today.


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