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What Qualifies as Solicitation of a Minor?

Law Offices of Fisher Wise Aug. 31, 2022

Solicitation of a minor in Tennessee encompasses many separate laws that prohibit those 18 or older from communicating with anyone younger than 18 about a sex act. The penalties are harsh, and almost all of the applicable laws are considered felonies. Worse, each communication with a minor constitutes a separate crime, so an offender who preys on one child might face multiple charges for what amounts to an ongoing series of communications.

The offenses falling under the solicitation of a minor range from merely requesting a graphic sexual image to sexual battery and rape, to name just a few that appear under the basic statute found in the Tennessee Code Annotated Title 39, Chapter 5, Part 9. Title 39 contains all of the state’s criminal offenses, and Chapter 5 is for sex crimes.

If you find yourself under investigation for or being charged with a solicitation of a minor in or around Chattanooga, Tennessee, contact me at the Law Offices of Fisher Wise immediately. I am an experienced criminal defense attorney who will work with you to exercise your full rights and fight for the best possible outcome in your case.

The Law Offices of Fisher Wise also proudly serve clients in the counties of Marion, Rhea, Sequatchie, Hamilton, Bradley, and other surrounding areas, of Tennessee.

What Is Solicitation of a Minor

The language in the code gets a bit complex, but the law basically forbids any communication by any means with a minor regarding sex and sexual acts.

Specifically, the law states:

“It is an offense for a person eighteen (18) years of age or older, by means of oral, written or electronic communication, electronic mail or internet services, directly or through another, to intentionally command, request, hire, persuade, invite or attempt to induce a person whom the person making the solicitation knows, or should know, is less than eighteen (18) years of age, or solicits a law enforcement officer posing as a minor, and whom the person making the solicitation reasonably believes to be less than eighteen (18) years of age, to engage in conduct that, if completed, would constitute a violation by the soliciting adult of one (1) or more of the following offenses:

  • Rape of a child

  • Aggravated rape

  • Rape

  • Aggravated sexual battery

  • Sexual battery by an authority figure

  • Sexual battery

  • Statutory rape

  • Especially aggravated exploitation of a minor

  • Trafficking for commercial sex acts

  • Patronizing prostitution

  • Promoting prostitution

  • Aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor”

Possible Penalties

The Code states that a violation will be charged at one classification lower than the most serious crime solicited. Thus, if the highest crime is a Class C felony, everything will be charged as a Class D. A Class E felony, the lowest level, will be charged as a Class A misdemeanor.

Penalties range by type of solicitation. A few examples:

Sexual Exploitation of a Minor: This refers to possessing material (images, videos, etc.) of a minor engaged in real or simulated sexual activity that is offensive. This is a Class D felony punishable by three to 15 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.

Aggravated Sexual Exploitation of a Minor: This involves possessing with intent to promote, sell, distribute, transport, purchase, or exchange material depicting a minor engaged in sexual acts, or simulated sexual activity, that is clearly offensive. This is a Class B felony punishable by anywhere from eight to 30 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $25,000.

Sexual Battery: This is unlawful sexual contact with a minor that is carried out without consent, by the use of force or coercion, by the use of fraud, or by taking advantage of the victim’s weakened mental or physical condition that renders them helpless. This is a Class E felony punishable by three to six years in prison and a fine not to exceed $3,000.

A conviction includes registration as a sex offender, which is going to make it difficult if not impossible to find gainful employment or even a place to live. In addition, sex crimes are non-diversion crimes, meaning they cannot be expunged from your record.

Possible Defenses

The Code clearly states that it is “no defense that the solicitation was unsuccessful” or that the minor was unaware of the criminal nature of the conduct solicited. This, of course, makes mounting a defense all the more challenging, which means you may have to rely on the violation of your rights. You may have been subjected to an improper search or seizure, or your Miranda Rights were not read to you when you were arrested.

Beyond rights violations, your attorney can also challenge the validity and/or admissibility of any evidence submitted and question the veracity of any witnesses called. 

The main point is that you involve an experienced defense attorney as early in the process as possible, even before you are being questioned by police or prosecutors. Your best bet is to keep quiet until you have secured the services of an attorney.

Dedicated Counsel Throughout the Proceedings

Remember also, the state -- in the person of prosecutors and law enforcement officials – has to prove their case against you “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is a high bar, and because of this, I can strive to achieve a resolution to your case before it even goes to court. If we do go to trial, I will use everything in my power to protect your rights and look out for your interests.

If you are facing solicitation of a minor charges in Chattanooga, Tennessee, contact me immediately at the Law Offices of Fisher Wise. The sooner we get started, the better our chances are of mounting a solid defense.