Solicitation by computer in North Carolina

child on computer

One of the most common sex offense charges in North Carolina is Solicitation of a Child by Computer. With the growth of the internet and the availability of different channels for people to chat or have communication with each other, there is a lot of law enforcement resources put into this area, and thus these charges are very common. It is important to know that if you think you may have been targeted by a law enforcement sting or may be charged with solicitation by computer, you should talk to an attorney immediately. When you are dealing with these kinds of charges, what happens at the beginning of the case can make a huge difference in what the outcome may be.

Solicitation cases break down into two main categories; one where the defendant actually appears at the alleged meeting place, and one where they do not. Found in North Carolina General Statute 14-202.3, the basic elements that the prosecutor must prove in these kinds of cases are:

  1. That the Defendant is at least 16 years old

It is important to know under this element that this law was written prior to the raise the age statute, which raised the minimum age of adulthood for criminal prosecutions to 18. However, 16 and 17 years old may be tried as adults if their case is bounded over from juvenile court.

  1. That the Child is less than 16 years old and is at least five years young than the Defendant or that the Defendant believes they are talking to someone who is under the age of 16 and at least five years younger than them.

Another important point in this law is that the person on the other end of the communication does not need to be an actual child. If the Defendant believes or reasonably should believe that the person on the other end would meet this definition then they can be charged. This prong essentially carves out the ability to prosecute this case from internet stings run by law enforcement.

  1. That the Defendant knowingly and with the intent to commit an unlawful sexual act;
    1. Entices,
    2. Advises,
    3. Coerces,
    4. Orders,
    5. or Commands,

a child to meet them or any other person for the purpose of committing an unlawful sexual act.

This broad list of actions has been found to essentially include any kind of communication in which the parties discuss sexual acts and any desire to meet to perform an unlawful sexual act. The broadness of this list was intentional by the legislature and includes almost all forms of communication about sexual acts.

  1. By means of a computer or any other technological device.

This element has been interpreted by courts to essentially mean any device capable of accessing the internet. Some examples are computers, cell phones, tablets, video game consoles and more.

If the state can only prove these elements and nothing else, then you can be found guilty of just solicitation by computer. Basic solicitation by computer is punished as a class H felony. Class H felonies are punishable by up to 39 months in prison; however, this kind of conviction also requires registration as a sexual offender for up to 30 years.

If the state is able to prove that the Defendant, or any other person for whom the Defendant was arranging the meeting, actually appears at the meeting location, then on top of the sex offender registry, this crime is punished as a class G felony and is now punishable by up to 47 months in prison.

If you or anyone you know is being investigated or has been charged with either of the solicitation by computer charges. Call the Criminal Defense team at Jetton and Meredith today!