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Solicitation in legal terms is the act of enticing or encouraging a person to engage in unlawful conduct. In cases involving a minor, it refers to an intention to engage in some form of sexual activity. Solicitation of a minor is a state and federal sex crime offense that can include both online and in person solicitation. You can be charged with soliciting a minor even if no sexual act occurred. The penalties in a solicitation case include:
- Psychological counseling
- Public service
- Sex offender registration
The Internet is closely monitored by law enforcement agencies looking for individuals engaging in illegal acts like solicitation of a minor. Police personnel will even pose as minors in chat rooms and on social networking sites to find and engage sexual predators. Any form of sexually explicit online communication, whether in a chat room, by email or instant messaging, can lead to solicitation charges. You will also be facing criminal charges for sending or soliciting sexually explicit materials. If you have been accused of soliciting a minor, contact Dallas Sex Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson for advice regarding your legal situation. The prosecution will relentlessly pursue a conviction in a case involving sexual misconduct with a minor. You will need a skilled and aggressive litigator to protect your rights when fighting these serious allegations.
Dallas Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is well-versed in the various defenses that must be explored in all cases of this kind. These defenses may include issues of entrapment, client knowledge, or jurisdictional questions.
Accusation of soliciting a minor online can often result from entrapment-type situations commonly depicted on televisions shows. However, soliciting a minor online can also be the result of a mistake or an accident. For example, an individual can be charged with soliciting a minor when they thought they were communicating with an adult on the computer, but may have actually been talking to an underage person. No matter the reason for the false claims against you, it is important to contact an experienced sex crimes defense lawyer who will make every effort to find defenses or other mitigating factors that will result in an acquittal of the charges against you.
An allegation of On-line Solicitation or Importuning calls for great effort and resources, as the stakes are high – one faces not only a potential prison term, but also the stigmatizing and debilitating effects of sex offender public registration, which makes it difficult if not impossible to obtain employment, and may even severely restrict one’s ability to reside in certain locations.
Jurors are often familiar with programs like “To Catch a Predator”, giving them preconceived notions which need to be addressed and diffused. Our lawyers know first-hand that with thoughtful and extensive examination of pertinent case law and pre-trial motions, a successful defense of On-line Solicitation and Importuning allegations can be achieved.
It is important to remember that if you have been accused of soliciting a minor online, the state prosecutor is required to prove every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. This can be a very difficult burden of proof to meet, and any doubt in the mind of the judge or jury can result in a dismissal or reduction of the charges against you. Therefore, it is essential to contact an experienced Child Sex Abuse lawyer to help you begin developing the best legal defense for your particular case. Contact Dallas Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson for a free consultation today at 214-234-0111 anytime, night or day if you have been falsely accused of soliciting a minor online.
Online Solicitation of a Minor Defined
Since the 1990′s, the internet has changed the way we communicate, do business, meet people, and almost all other aspects of our lives. Unfortunately, it has also led to new criminal charges, many of which carry steep penalties. The most severe online offenses are those related to the potential harm of an underage person, such as online solicitation of a minor.
Online solicitation of a minor is communication with a minor via the internet that aims to arouse, sexually gratify, harass, or arrange to meet a minor face-to-face in the real world. In Texas, a minor is any person who is 17 years of age or younger. Exchanging sexually oriented materials, conversations, or invitations with a minor is a serious legal offense in our state.
Sexual exploitation can result in numerous physical and psychological consequences for children that may be multiplied for victims of child pornography because they face a lifetime of possible revictimization through the continued distribution of videos, photographs, or computer images depicting their exploitation (Klain, 2001). The mass media continues to feed into the stereotype that all Internet offenders are “predators” or “pedophiles”. According to ABC World News Tonight in June 2006, there are approximately 563,000 registered sex offenders nationally. However, decades of research indicates that only ten percent (10%) of sex offenders are truly predatory in nature.
This is not to discount that Internet victimization is one of the most dangerous Internet threats, but society must be cautious in using such characteristics without empirical data to support such a homogenous label. In the National Juvenile Online Victimization (N-JOV) study, approximately seventy-eight percent (78%) of cases, the offender was one of the victim’s family members, second generation family member such as grandparents, uncle or aunt, or stepparents or parent’s intimate partner.
Children exploring the Internet for education and entertainment are at risk of encountering sexually explicit material, sexual exploitation, and Internet offenses while remaining undetected by parents. The Internet has become a conduit for sexually explicit material and offenses against children. Children are extremely vulnerable to victimization due to their curiosity, naiveté, and trusting nature. These crimes present law enforcement with many complex problems due to the fact that they transcend jurisdictional boundaries and often involve multiple victims in multiple states and countries. Internet crimes must be pursued vigorously by law enforcement.
The greatest obstacle facing law enforcement is that children and parents do not report the majority of Internet crimes. In situations where the abuse is a parent, a relative, or acquaintance, the abuse may be more likely to come to light inadvertently as a result of inquiries by social welfare and reports from neighbors, rather than as a result of police inquiries into online crime (Wolak, 2005, in press). Community involvement, parental supervision, and early intervention and prevention programs on Internet safety are essential in protecting children from online solicitation and exposure to pornography.
The computer age presents complex challenges for law enforcement, victim services, parents, legislators, and the community. The proliferation of computer technology obviously has enhanced our lives in many ways, such as enabling improved productivity and efficiency at work, school, and home (U.S. Department of Justice, 2001). Unfortunately, this technology is not without potential threats and harm for criminals to prey upon innocent victims. According to ABC World News Tonight in June 2006, there are approximately 563,000 registered sex offenders nationally. End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (EPCAT) International reports violence and harms against children and young people in cyberspace include: the production, distribution, and use of materials depicting child sexual abuse; online solicitation; exposure to materials that can cause psychological harm, lead to physical harm, or facilitate other detriments to a child; and harassment and intimidation.
Today the Internet has approximately two hundred (200) million users worldwide who can communicate with each other. Children of all ages are browsing the Internet. Forty-five (45%) of children in the United States, more than thirty (30) million of whom are younger than eighteen (18) use the Internet. By 2005, it was estimated that there are seventy-seven (77) million children online. Approximately one hundred three (103) million people use instant messaging (IM) programs such as AOL’s AIM, Microsoft’s MSN Messenger, and others. MySpace.com reports more than eighty-five (85) million members and the number of visitors to MySpace went from 4.9 million in 2005 to currently over sixty-seven (67) million. Like most new technological developments, this brings both positive and negative implications, especially for parents and their children.
Some children are especially at risk due to a range of vulnerability-enhancing factors common to all environments. They are in socially and economically difficult situations, have experienced sexual abuse and exploitation, are lonely, or feel alienated from their parents. Others have low self-esteem, feel awkward, are confused about their personal identity and sexuality, and lack confidence. Gender is also seen to be a risk factor, with seemingly more girls than boys appearing to be harmed through cyberspace interactions (although boys are increasingly featured in pornographic images circulating online).
Demographics of an Internet Offender
Sex offenders and child pornographers are a heterogeneous mixture. Before the advent of the Internet, between one-fifth and one-third of people arrested for possession of child pornography were also involved in actual abuse. The majority are male and come from all socio-economic and racial backgrounds. Many are skilled in technology. Not all fit the clinical classification of “pedophilia”. The mass media continues to feed into the stereotype that all Internet offenders are “predators” or “pedophiles”. This is not to discount that Internet victimization is one of the most dangerous Internet threats but society must be cautious in using such characteristics without empirical data to support such a homogenous label. We have to remember that in a previous generation, campaigns to prevent child molestation characterized the threat as “playground predator” or “stranger danger” so that for years the problem of youth, acquaintance, and intra-family perpetrators went unrecognized.
In an analysis of 600 cases of child sexual abuse in which the Internet played a role, either the offender- victim relationship was initiated or conducted online, the case involved the online sharing or distribution of child pornography, or the case involved child pornography stored on a computer or digital media. One hundred twenty six (126) cases involved a face-to-face relationship between the offender and the victim prior to any use of the Internet in committing abuse. N-JOV data indicated that the Internet was involved in eighteen percent (18%) of all sex crimes against minors and that nearly half of the eighteen percent (18%) were committed by acquaintances or family members, with a total of at least 460 arrests a year. This study found ninety-five percent (95%) were non-Hispanic Caucasians and forty-seven percent (47%) were twenty-six (26) or older. Thirty-five percent (35%) were married and over a third lived in small towns. Eighty percent (80%) were employed full time and fifty-one percent (51%) had incomes ranging from $20,000-$50,000 per year.
Identifying Internet Offenders
There is no one type of Internet child pornography user, and there is no easy way to recognize an offender. In the 2005 Wolak survey, solicitors did not match the stereotype of the older male “Internet predator”. Many were identified as other youth and some were female. Having a preconceived idea of a child sex offender can be unhelpful and prove a distraction for investigating police. Those convicted of sexually abusing children will not necessarily seek out or collect pornography, with one study putting the number of offenders who do so at around ten percent (10%).
This explosion of computer use, and the ease with which identities can be concealed on-line, has offered obvious opportunities to those who produce and consume pornography and those who seek to exploit vulnerable populations for sexual gratification. The Internet technology affords perpetrators a foundation for repeated, long-term victimization of a child. These crimes present law enforcement with many complex problems due to the fact that they transcend jurisdictional boundaries and often involve multiple victims in multiple states and countries.
N-JOV data reflected that the most common use of the Internet with family (70%) and acquaintance (65%) offenders was for seduction or grooming of victims either through online conversations or sharing of pornographic images. Forty-nine percent (49%) of family offenders and thirty-nine percent (39%) of acquaintance offenders produced pornographic images of their victims, which they stored or disseminated using the Internet. Forty-three percent (43%) used the Internet to arrange a face-to-face meeting. Relatively small numbers of offenders (2-4%) used the Internet as an inducement to enter the offender’s home and use it to advertise or sell victims online. Seventy-five percent (75%) of these cases involved some form of sexual contact and forty-five percent (45%) involved intercourse or other penetration. In a quarter of these cases, the sexual contact continued for over a year before being reported to the police.
How Sex Offenders Select Victims
A greater number of sex offenders are using the Internet searching for potential child victims through “kid only” or “kid friendly” chat rooms, online games, and instant messenger. The “set-up” for victimization requires long-term thought and planning. But a distinctive aspect of interaction in cyberspace that facilitates the grooming process is the rapid speed with which communication can become intimate. Chat rooms can be frequented by sex offenders that groom and manipulate their victims by playing on the emotional immaturity of children in virtual anonymity. The goal of the “set-up” is to gain control over the victim. The length of time spent during the “set-up” varies upon the vulnerability of the child. The longer an offender knows a child the better they are at “zeroing” in their grooming tactics and strategies.
Grooming is a term used to describe the process of desensitizing and manipulating the victim(s) and/or others for the purpose of gaining an opportunity to commit a sexually deviant act [Title 22, Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 810.2(b)(15)]. Grooming inflicts psychological harm on the child. In teen chat rooms, the activities that precede the process of initiating direct contact with a child may simply involve the offender providing a description of themselves to all of the users of the public chat room so that the offender is masquerading as a particular kind of child, of a particular age, in the hope of attracting an equivalent age and the same or opposite sex child (i.e. 14/m/tx) (O’Connell, 2001). A sex offender may begin victim selection by observation in which an offender may “lurk” in chat rooms or massive multiplayer online games listening to conversations between children. An offender may search public profiles that include information such as name, age, location, hobbies, interests, and photographs. The offender will then wait for a child’s response and determine if they will initiate a conversation. After selecting a victim, the offender will introduce him or herself by instant message (IM) or by a private message to the child. Additionally, victim selection can involve viewing the child’s public profile. A victim’s information may be obtained through an Internet service provider request or a URL a child must provide in order to create their own website.
In the initial stages of grooming, the offender will suggest that the child move from a public domain to a private chat room or IM for an exclusive one-to-one conversation. The offender will engage in conversations related to school, home, hobbies, parental relationships, or interests of the child. The offender will gather information regarding the likelihood of activities being detected. The offender will manipulate the child to create an illusion of being the child’s best friend. The interactions take on the characteristics of a strong sense of mutuality (i.e. a mutual respect club comprised of two people that must ultimately remain a secret from all others). During these interactions, the child is praised, made to feel special, and very positive conversations are tailored to the age of the child. Gifts or money may be offered to the child. Sadly, sex offenders tend to target children who are neglected or come from dysfunctional homes. For these children, the sex offender offers an alternative relationship that makes the child feel special and loved.
The offender introduces the idea of trust, affection, and loyalty but it is based on deception and manipulation. This grooming tactic provides a forum to move into the next stage of victimization. The offender will begin to exploit social norms and test the child’s boundaries. The offender could ask the child “have you been kissed?”, “have you ever been skinny dipping?”, or “do you wear a bikini?” If the child does not respond negatively to the boundary violation, it is tantamount to accepting the behavior or language. During boundary violations, the offender has positioned the child into believing that they share a deep sense of mutual trust.
Offenders who intend to maintain a relationship with a child will progress carefully and methodically into sexually explicit language. The nature of the conversations will progress from mild conversations (i.e. “I love you” or “I want to kiss you”) to extremely explicit (i.e. masturbation or oral sex). The target child may be drawn into producing pornography by sending photos, using a web-cam or engaging in sexual discussions. To silence the child and ensure their continued compliance in sexual exploitation, the offender may use a variety of tactics including rewards, violence, threats, bribery, punishment, coercion, peer pressure, and fear (Klain, 2001). Research indicates that this pattern of conversations is characteristic of an online relationship that may progress to a request for a face-to-face meeting.
Child Pornography Under federal law, child pornography is defined as a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting, photograph, film, video, or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct, where it
- depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and is obscene, or
- depicts an image that is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in graphic bestiality, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex, and such depiction lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value (18 U.S.C §1466A and 18 U.S.C. §2256)
Sexually explicit conduct includes various forms of sexual activity such as intercourse, bestiality, masturbation, sadistic or masochistic abuse, and lascivious exhibition of the genitals. It is illegal to possess, distribute, or manufacture these images.
Pornography and Child Pornography on the Internet
Both adult and child pornography has saturated the Internet due to the lack of censorship by the industry. The Internet provides the social, individual, and technological circumstances in which an interest in child pornography flourishes. Cyberspace is host to more than one (1) million images of tens of thousands of children subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation. Of the estimated 24.7 million Internet users between the ages of ten (10) and seventeen (17), approximately 8.4 million youths received unwanted exposure to sexual material.
Child pornography is the second highest category, after indecent exposure, of sexual re-offense behavior. The vast majority of children who appear in child pornography have not been abducted or physically forced to participate. In most cases the child knows the producer and it may even be their father who manipulates the child into taking part by more subtle means. Most children feel a pressure to cooperate with the offender and not to disclose the offense, both out of loyalty to the offender and a sense of shame about their own behavior.
Physical contact between a child and a perpetrator does not need to occur for a child to become a victim or for a crime to be committed. Innocent pictures or images of children can be digitally transformed into pornographic material and distributed across the Internet without the victim’s knowledge (U.S. Department of Justice, 2001). Digital graphic software (i.e. Photoshop, Illustrator, Microsoft PhotoEditor) allow offenders to edit “innocent” pictures. After a picture is scanned into a computer, these image-editing programs can be used to put several photos together or to distort pictures and create a believable image of a reality that never existed. This process is called “morphing”. In some countries, morphed images or pictures are not illegal. Offenders may claim in court that a picture is morphed, no matter how disturbing, is not a picture of a real child or a situation which actually took place, and thus is not illegal.
In April 2002, the United States Supreme Court found that provisions of the Child Pornography Act (CPPA), which prohibited the depiction of virtual and simulated child pornography, were invalid under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Court found that in the absence of a “real” child, the Court could see no “direct link” between such images and the sexual abuse of children. The Court’s majority could not see a substantial risk of producers of child pornography using virtual images of children. Additionally, children can be exposed to “virtual” pornography. Virtual pornography is legal the United States and in some other countries.
In the 2005 Wolak study, almost all of the arrested child pornography possessors (91%) used home computers to access child pornography and almost one (1) in five (5) arrested (18%) used a home computer in more than one (1) location to access child pornography. Additionally, Wolak found that in fourteen percent (14%) of child pornography investigations, the offenders not only had possessed pornography but had sexually victimized children and two percent (2%) possessed pornography and attempted to sexually victimize children. Eighty-four percent (84%) of the investigations involving child pornography did not detect concurrent child sexual victimization or attempts at victimization (Wolak, 2005). According to the United States Postal Inspection Service, forty percent (40%) of child pornographers investigated have sexually molested children. From January 1997 through March 2004, 1,807 child pornographers were arrested and 620 (34%) of these offenders were confirmed child molesters (Kim, 2004).
Although most Internet pornography is created offline, technology has evolved to create “real” life pornography that can be viewed in real time, using web-cameras, phone cameras, digital cameras, and streaming video. A user can be notified of the date and time to log on the computer to view a child being sexually abused. The advent of mini-cameras has allowed for pictures and videos to be created without the subject’s knowledge. The user may pay money or exchange images with the direct abuser (Palmer, 2004).
These illegal images can be presented in various forms including print media, videotape, film, compact disc, read-only memory (CD-ROM), or digital versatile technology (DVD) (Klain, 2001) and can be transmitted through computer bulletin-board systems (BBS), USENET Newsgroups, Internet Relay Chat, web-based groups, peer-to-peer technology, and an array of constantly changing world wide web sites.
Using Child Pornography to Groom Children
Children can be exposed to pornography through spam or potential abusers. The accessibility of pornography online, the ease and perceived anonymity of transmission, and the environment of “virtuality” itself makes the use of pornography in online grooming easier for an abuser. Pornography is a tool for inducting and socializing a child into behaviors that reflect the content of the pornographic materials. Sex offenders frequently use pornography as a tool to assist them in the grooming process.
Children exploring the Internet for education and entertainment are at risk of encountering sexually explicit material, sexual exploitation, and offenses against children while remaining undetected by parents. Children are extremely vulnerable to victimization due to their curiosity, naiveté, and trusting nature. The Internet has become a conduit for sexually explicit material and offenses against children. In 2006, Wolak reported fifty-four percent (54%) of boys and forty-six percent (46%) of girls received unwanted exposure to sexual material. Ninety percent (90%) of all solicitations happened to teenagers (ages 13 to 17). Eighty-six percent (86%) received images of naked people and fifty-seven percent (57%) received pictures of people having sex and/or violent or deviant images. Lastly, eighty-three percent (83%) of unwanted exposures occurred when youth were surfing the web and eighty-nine percent (89%) of incidents the senders were unable to be identified.
Sex offenders use pornography to escalate the relationship with the child. According to the Klain study, the most common purposes for which offenders use child pornography are:
- Pornography creates a permanent record for sexual arousal and gratification.
- Pornography lowers the child’s inhibitions to engage in sexual behavior.
- Pornography may be used to teach children how to behave, pose, or re-enact scenes.
- Pornography may be used to blackmail child victims by threatening to show the photographs, videos, or other depictions to parents, friends, or teachers. The threat becomes more potent because the child may fear punishment by the criminal justice system.
- Pornography created to sell for profit or trade between individuals. The Internet’s anonymity, enhanced by increasingly sophisticated encryption technology, facilitates the increasing demand for child pornography.
Repeated exposure to adult and child pornography is deliberately used to diminish the child’s inhibitions, break barriers to sexual arousal, desensitize the child that sex is normal, and arouse the victim. Children depicted in pictures are often smiling or have neutral expressions, a factor that appears to be designed to represent the children as willing participants in sexual or degrading acts. There is a recent trend for pictures to be taken in domestic settings such as a kitchen or bedroom, thus further “normalizing” the activity for children who view images.
It has been reported that children under ten (10) who have been exposed to sexually exploitative material have themselves become users of it. Eight percent (8%) of youths admitted to going voluntarily to X-rated sites. Children at most risk of being violated through pornography productions are within the home and family. The child knows their abuser as a parent, a relative, a guardian, or an acquaintance. In these situations, the abuse may be more likely to come to light inadvertently as a result of inquiries by social welfare and reports from neighbors, rather than as a result of police inquiries into online crime.
Reporting Internet Crimes
The impact of online child victimization (i.e. solicitation and harassment) is not completely understood. Family dynamics often play a significant role in children’s denial of a crime and their willingness to participate in the investigation and prosecution. A child’s ability to acknowledge and accept the crime can be linked to family values, peer pressure, and feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment. Only three percent (3%) of all incidents of predators harassing children on the Internet is reported. The Crimes against Children Research Center found less than ten percent (10%) of sexual solicitations and only three percent (3%) of unwanted exposure episodes were reported to authorities such as a law-enforcement agency, an Internet service provider, or a hotline. In 2005, only one (1) incident out of more than 500 incidents of sexually explicit material was ever reported to an Internet service provider.
Ninety-five percent (95%) of parents could not identify common chat room lingo that teenagers use to warn people they are chatting with that their parents were watching (NCMEC, 2005). Ninety-two percent (92%) of parents did not know the meaning of A/S/L (Age/Sex/Location) (NCMEC, 2005). Parents should watch for the following questionable abbreviations:
- 53x means “sex”
- 121 means “one to one”
- A/S/L means age, sex, location. Watch for personal information being exchanged (i.e. 14/m/tx). This is a 14 year old male from Texas.
- CYBER used as a verb and means “cybersex”
- CONNECT means “to talk privately”
- DIKU means “do I know you”
- ESAD means “eat sh*t and die”
- F2F, FTF means “face to face” or “let’s meet F2F”
- FOAD means “f*ck off and die”
- GP means “go private”
- H4U means “hot for you”
- H&K means “hugs and kisses”
- ILU means “I love you”
- IWALU means “I will always love you”
- KOC means “kiss on the cheek”
- KOL means “kiss on the lips”
- LTR means “long term relationship”
- LMIRL means “lets meet in real life”
- LUWAMH means “love you with all my heart”
- LU means “love you”
- MOSS means “member of the same sex”
- MOTOS means “member of the opposite sex”
- MUSM means “miss you so much”
- NIFOC means “naked in front of the computer”
- OLL means “online love”
- P2P means “person to person”
- P911 means “my parents are coming”
- PA means “parent alert”
- PAL means “parents are listening”
- PANB means “parents are near by”
- PM means “private message or one on one chat”
- POS means “parent over shoulder”
- pr0n is an alternate spelling for porn or pornography
- PDA means “public display of affection”
- RL, IRL means “in real life as in “wants to see you IRL”
- SWAK means “sealed with a kiss”
- TOY means “thinking of you”
- WIBNI means “wouldn’t it be nice if”
- WTGP means “want to go private”
- WUF means “where are you from”
- WTF means “what the f*ck”
Acronyms and words used in daily IM or discussion boards
- AFAIK means “as far as I know”
- BTW means “by the way”
- CUL means “see you later”
- HHOK means “ha ha only kidding”
- IANAL means “I am not a lawyer”
- IIRC means “if I remember correctly”
- IMHO means “in my humble opinion”
- KEWL means “cool”
- OMG means “oh my god”
- OTOH means “on the other hand”
- WUT^2 “what up with you too”
Characteristics of Youth Who Form Close Online Relationships
- Sixteen percent (16%) of girls and twelve (12%) of boys have close online relationships.
- Girls aged fourteen (14) to seventeen (17) were twice as likely as girls ten (10) to thirteen (13) to form close online relationships.
- High parent-child conflict and being highly troubled were associated with close online relationships. Girls with high levels of parent-child conflict report yelling, nagging, and privileges by parents at higher levels than other girls. The highly troubled girls had levels of depression, victimization, and troubling life events at higher levels than other girls.
- Boys who had low communications with their parents, and who also reported that their parents were less likely to know where and who they were with were the most strongly associated with close online relationships.
- Girls and boys who reported high levels of Internet use and home Internet access were more likely to report close online relationships.
- Youths with problems were most likely to attend a face-to-face meeting with people they first met online.
Warning Signs that a Child may be at Risk
- Excessive use of online services especially during the late night hours
- Unsupervised time in unmonitored chat rooms
- Mood swings and withdraws
- Greater desire to spend time with people online than with “real life” people
- Unexplained files downloaded (i.e. .jpd, .gif, .bmp, .tif, .pcx, .mov, .avi, .wmv, or .mpg)
Defenses to Online Solicitation of a Minor
People are often arrested and charged with online solicitation when they meet the minor in question in person. However, it is important to note that a person can still be charged with this offense even if the meeting never occurs. Despite this, a person may be found innocent of online solicitation if one or both of the following apply:
- He or she is legally married to the minor in question
- He or she is less than three years older than the minor
Solicitation of a minor laws have frequently been challenged by defendants on the basis that they violate a defendant’s right to free speech, but have survived such claims. Viable defenses remaining will depend on a particular state’s laws. Some earlier laws required a defendant to actually communicate with a child and defendants could raise the defense of impossibility where prosecution involved communication with an officer who was merely posing as a child but who was in actuality an adult. In response to the success of the impossibility defense, many state statutes changed their laws to permit a conviction based on a defendant’s belief that they were talking to a minor. Other states have also built in “Romeo and Juliet” defenses for a defendant who is involved in a dating relationship with a child who was not more than three years younger than the defendant.
Although not an outright “defense,” another defensive angle is to prove that the defendant did not know that the person on the other end was a minor. Most states have strict liability laws — which means the state is not required to prove that a defendant knew how old the child was, only that the child was underage. However, some juries have engaged in “jury nullification,” by finding a defendant not guilty if they believed that the defendant did not have a reason to believe the child was underage. Showing that the conversation was just an online fantasy or proving that they never intended to actually meet the minor are generally not good defenses. Before a defendant decides to pursue a defensive theory, they should discuss the practicality of the defense with a criminal attorney in their area.
Solicitation of a Minor: Misdemeanor or Felony?
Online solicitation of a minor is usually classified as a felony level offense. As with most felonies, the range of punishment can include a deferred or suspended sentence, up to several years in prison. A defendant in Texas can receive anywhere from two to twenty years in prison. Although a deferred sentence can allow a defendant to remain free, the restrictions of probation tend to be more intense for online solicitation charges because they are considered sexually related offenses. The court can order a defendant to submit to maintenance polygraphs, complete individual or group sex offender counseling, to submit to a sex offender evaluation, and to refrain from being around any children while on probation. The court can also require a defendant to pay for these programs which can run up to $500.00 or more per month.
The long-term consequences can be even more severe. Because online solicitation of a minor is considered a sexually related offense, a defendant can be required to register as a sex offender. If a defendant fails to register, they can be charged with a new felony offense of failure to register as a sex offender. Once a defendant has a sexually related offense on their record, some states will significantly increase the punishment for a second offense if a defendant is ever charged with another sexually related offense. Beyond the court system, online solicitation will also affect employment opportunities. With more open access to the court systems, more employers are performing background checks and will not hire certain candidates. Applicants with sexually related offenses are generally the first to get cut.
When you have been charged with a severe legal offense, it is very important to understand your rights and defense options. An experienced Dallas Criminal Lawyer can help you decide what steps you need to take next. The attorneys of the Charles Johnson Law Firm are aggressive child sex crime defense lawyers who will make every effort to fight the allegations against you. Contact us for a free consultation today at 214-234-0111 anytime, night or day if you have been falsely accused of soliciting a minor online.
Charles Johnson |
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While it may seem minor, an ecstasy possession offense can carry serious penalties in Dallas and throughout Texas. Dallas Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson has proven his success in defending those charged with serious drug offenses. Attorney Johnson understands what you are up against, and knows the best defense strategies to preserve your rights and your freedom.
What is Ecstasy?
MDMA or Ecstasy is a Schedule I, synthetic, psychoactive drug possessing stimulant and hallucinogenic properties. Ecstasy possesses chemical variations of the stimulant amphetamine or methamphetamine and a hallucinogen, most often mescaline. Ecstasy is a semi-synthetic chemical compound. Ecstasy is a white, crystalline powder in its pure form. It is usually seen in capsule form, in pressed pills, or as loose powder. Average cost ranges from $10-$30 (U.S.) a dose. Ecstasy is rarely consumed with alcohol, as alcohol is believed to diminish its effects. It is most often distributed at late-night parties called “raves”, nightclubs, and rock concerts. As the rave and club scene expands to metropolitan and suburban areas across the country, ecstasy use and distribution are increasing as well.
- MDMA is a “mood elevator” that produces a relaxed, euphoric state. It does not produce hallucinations.
- MDMA takes effect 20 to 40 minutes after taking a tablet, with little rushes of exhilaration which can be accompanied by nausea. 60 to 90 minutes after taking the drug, the user feels the peak effects.
- Sensations are enhanced and the user experiences hightened feelings of empathy, emotional warmth, and self-acceptance.
- The effects of ‘real’ ecstasy subside after about 3-5 hours.
- Users report that the experience is very pleasant and highly controllable. Even at the peak of the effect, people can usually deal with important matters.
- The effect that makes MDMA different from other drugs is that it increases a sense of empathy, or the sensation of understanding and accepting others.
Teenagers and young adults are the primary abusers of MDMA; however, MDMA is gaining popularity among older users. According to TCADA, MDMA-related treatment admissions to TCADA-funded treatment facilities increased from 63 in 1998 to 521 in 2002. MDMA is widely available throughout Texas, particularly in metropolitan areas such as Austin, Dallas, Dallas, and San Antonio. DAWN data indicate that MDMA ED mentions in the Dallas metropolitan area increased dramatically from 17 in 1997 to 77 in 2001. Contributing to the threat is increasing MDMA availability in suburban and rural areas. Law enforcement authorities in Bee, Gonzales, and Wharton Counties report increased MDMA availability in their jurisdictions.
What is the history of ecstasy?
MDMA was patented as long ago as 1913 by the German company Merck. Rumor has it that the drug was sold as a slimming pill along with comic descriptions of its strange side effects, although it was never marketed and the patent doesn’t mention uses. The next time it came to light was in 1953 when the US army tested a number of drugs for military applications – again, folklore says it was tried as a truth drug but there is no evidence for this.
The years between 1977 and 1985 are viewed as the ‘golden age’ of Ecstasy. In psychotherapy, its use only appealed to a few experimental therapists since it didn’t fit in with the usual 50-minute psychotherapy session. The therapists that did use it include some of the most dynamic people in the field, including some who claimed that a five hour Ecstasy session was as good as 5 months of therapy.
By 1984 MDMA was still legal and was being used widely among students in the USA under its new name ‘Ecstasy’. (Rumor has it that a big-time dealer called it ‘Empathy’, although the name is more appropriate, he found that Ecstasy had more sales appeal.) In Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, Ecstasy was even on sale in bars where you could pay by credit card. It replaced cocaine as the drug of choice among yuppies and even spread to people who normally kept well clear of drugs. However, it was this public and unashamed use that resulted in the drug being outlawed.
The criminalisation of ecstasy in America has wide-ranging consequences. The first was to prevent the drug being used by professional therapists, except in Switzerland. The second was to reduce the quality of the drug as sold on the street, because demand was now met by clandestine laboratories and the drug was distributed through the criminal network. Although the number of users was dramatically reduced at first, criminalisation did not prevent the drug’s popularity from spreading worldwide.
Nicknames and Street Names for Ecstasy
Ecstasy usually appears as a small pill or tablet in various colors, sometimes with a logo stamped on it. Here are the common nicknames and street names for Ecstasy:
- X, E, or XTC
- Dancing Shoes
- Disco Biscuits
- Egg Rolls
- Happy Pill
- Hug Drug
- Love Drug
- Malcolm (or Malcolm X)
- Scooby Snacks
- Vitamin E or Vitamin X
Slang Terms for Ecstasy Use and Abuse
Here are some common slang terms for using Ecstasy or to describe someone who uses Ecstasy:
- Drop, Double Drop
- Flip or Flipping
- Roll, Rolling
- Cuddle Puddle, E-Puddle
- Raver, Raving
What does it look like?
Ecstasy usually comes in a tablet form that is often branded. Such logos or trademarks include CK (Calvin Klein), shamrocks, stars, Woody the Woodpecker, Dino, Pinocchio, Snoopy, Love, and many other colors, symbols/logos. A sample of several logo/trademark tablets are shown below:
It is clear that most of the logos/trademarks found on Ecstasy tablets are aimed at young adults. The logos/trademarks entice one to believe that Ecstasy is safe, almost candy-like. Do not be fooled. While attractive and interesting, these tablets, even in their purest form, contain a dangerous controlled substance that could take your life. Keep in mind that it is not uncommon for such pills to be tainted with dangerous substances other than Ecstasy. Ecstasy is not produced in safely regulated laboratory environments where the contents of what goes into the drug are closely scrutinized.
How is it used?
Ecstasy is usually taken in pill form and swallowed and it can also be injected. Some users have been known to crush and snort the resulting powder. Others insert the pill into the anus where it is absorbed. This process is known as “shafting.” Liquid Ecstasy is actually GHB, a nervous system depressant-a substance that can also be found in drain cleaner, floor stripper and degreasing solvents.
What is the dosage?
E is almost always swallowed as a tablet or capsule. A normal dose is around 100-125 mg. Black market “ecstasy” tablets vary widely in strength, and often contain other drugs.
How Is MDMA Abused?
MDMA is taken orally, usually as a capsule or tablet. It was initially popular among Caucasian adolescents and young adults in the nightclub scene or at weekend-long dance parties known as raves. More recently, the profile of the typical MDMA user has changed, with the drug now affecting a broader range of ethnic groups. MDMA is also popular among urban gay males-some report using MDMA as part of a multiple-drug experience that includes marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, ketamine, sildenafil (Viagra), and other legal and illegal substances.
What are its short-term effects?
Users report that Ecstasy produces intensely pleasurable effects – including an enhanced sense of self-confidence and energy. Effects include feelings of peacefulness, acceptance and empathy. Users say they experience feelings of closeness with others and a desire to touch others. Other effects can include involuntary teeth clenching, a loss of inhibitions, transfixion on sights and sounds, nausea, blurred vision, chills and/or sweating. Increases in heart rate and blood pressure, as well as seizures, are also possible. The stimulant effects of the drug enable users to dance for extended periods, which when combined with the hot crowded conditions usually found at raves, can lead to severe dehydration and hyperthermia or dramatic increases in body temperature. This can lead to muscle breakdown and kidney, liver and cardiovascular failure. Cardiovascular failure has been reported in some of the Ecstasy-related fatalities. After-effects can include sleep problems, anxiety and depression.
- Impaired judgment
- False sense of affection
- Sleep problems
- Severe anxiety
- Drug cravings
- Muscle tension
- Faintness and chills or swelling
- Involuntary teeth clenching
- Blurred vision
What are its long-term effects?
Repeated use of Ecstasy ultimately may damage the cells that produce serotonin, which has an important role in the regulation of mood, appetite, pain, learning and memory. There already is research suggesting Ecstasy use can disrupt or interfere with memory.
- Long-lasting brain damage affecting thought and memory
- Damage to portions of the brain that regulate critical functions such as learning, sleep and emotion
- It is as if the brain switchboard was torn apart, then rewired backwards
- Degenerated nerve branches and nerve endings
- Depression, anxiety, memory loss
- Kidney failure
- Cardiovascular collapse
What are some types of paraphernalia associated with Ecstasy use?
- Pacifiers, Blo-pops, Popsicle sticks
- M&Ms, Skittles, Tootsie-Rolls, Candy necklaces
- Glo-sticks, Bottled water
- Dust / surgical masks
- Vicks Vapor Rub
- Strobe lights
- Suppository bottles
The pacifier is used to prevent the grinding of teeth that is often a physical side effect when using Ecstasy. Glow sticks are used to increase the visual psychedelic effects associated with the use of Ecstasy. Vapor rub in a surgical mask that is placed over the nose and mouth is used to enhance the euphoric effects of Ecstasy. None of these items alone indicates use of Ecstasy. However, in the right context, such items are tools which enhance the Ecstasy “high,” and cut down on the undesirable effects of the drug.
How Does MDMA Affect the Brain?
MDMA exerts its primary effects in the brain on neurons that use the chemical (or neurotransmitter) serotonin to communicate with other neurons. The serotonin system plays an important role in regulating mood, aggression, sexual activity, sleep, and sensitivity to pain. MDMA binds to the serotonin transporter, which is responsible for removing serotonin from the synapse (or space between adjacent neurons) to terminate the signal between neurons; thus MDMA increases and prolongs the serotonin signal. MDMA also enters the serotonergic neurons via the transporter (because MDMA resembles serotonin in chemical structure) where it causes excessive release of serotonin from the neurons. MDMA has similar effects on another neurotransmitter-norepinephrine, which can cause increases in heart rate and blood pressure. MDMA also releases dopamine, but to a much lesser extent.
MDMA can produce confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, and severe anxiety. These problems can occur soon after taking the drug or, sometimes, even days or weeks after taking MDMA. In addition, chronic users of MDMA perform more poorly than nonusers on certain types of cognitive or memory tasks, although some of these effects may be due to the use of other drugs in combination with MDMA. Research in animals indicates that MDMA can be harmful to the brain-one study in nonhuman primates showed that exposure to MDMA for only 4 days caused damage to serotonin nerve terminals that was still evident 6 to 7 years later. Although similar neurotoxicity has not been shown definitively in humans, the wealth of animal research indicating MDMA’s damaging properties strongly suggests that MDMA is not a safe drug for human consumption.
For some people, MDMA can be addictive. A survey of young adult and adolescent MDMA users found that 43 percent of those who reported ecstasy use met the accepted diagnostic criteria for dependence, as evidenced by continued use despite knowledge of physical or psychological harm, withdrawal effects, and tolerance (or diminished response). These results are consistent with those from similar studies in other countries that suggest a high rate of MDMA dependence among users. MDMA abstinence-associated withdrawal symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, depressed feelings, and trouble concentrating.
What Other Adverse Effects Does MDMA Have on Health?
MDMA can also be dangerous to overall health and, on rare occasions, lethal. MDMA can have many of the same physical effects as other stimulants, such as cocaine and amphetamines. These include increases in heart rate and blood pressure-which present risks of particular concern for people with circulatory problems or heart disease-and other symptoms such as muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, faintness, and chills or sweating.
In high doses, MDMA can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate temperature. On rare but unpredictable occasions, this can lead to a sharp increase in body temperature (hyperthermia), which can result in liver, kidney, cardiovascular system failure, or death. MDMA can interfere with its own metabolism (breakdown within the body); therefore, potentially harmful levels can be reached by repeated MDMA administration within short periods of time. Other drugs that are chemically similar to MDMA, such as MDA (methylenedioxyamphetamine, the parent drug of MDMA) and PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine, associated with fatalities in the United States and Australia), are sometimes sold as ecstasy. These drugs can be neurotoxic or create additional health risks to the user. Furthermore, ecstasy tablets may contain other substances, such as ephedrine (a stimulant); dextromethorphan (DXM, a cough suppressant); ketamine (an anesthetic used mostly by veterinarians); caffeine; cocaine; and methamphetamine. Although the combination of MDMA with one or more of these drugs may be inherently dangerous, users who also combine these with additional substances such as marijuana and alcohol may be putting themselves at even higher risk for adverse health effects.
What Treatment Options Exist?
There are no specific treatments for MDMA abuse and addiction. The most effective treatments for drug abuse and addiction in general are cognitive-behavioral interventions that are designed to help modify the patient’s thinking, expectancies, and behaviors related to their drug use and to increase skills in coping with life stressors. Drug abuse recovery support groups may also be effective in combination with behavioral interventions to support long-term, drug-free recovery. There are currently no pharmacological treatments for addiction to MDMA.
What are the symptoms of ecstasy withdrawal?
The most common ecstasy withdrawal symptoms include but are not limited to:
- panic attacks
- paranoid delusions
Ecstasy is NOT legally produced anywhere in the world. Most of the MDMA abused in Texas is produced in the Netherlands and Belgium. MDMA production may be emerging in Texas, but to a very limited extent. MDMA is smuggled into Texas from Canada, Europe, and Mexico primarily by Israeli criminal groups. To a lesser extent, Dominican criminal groups also smuggle MDMA into Texas. MDMA transporters use several means to smuggle the drug, including couriers on foot entering the United States from Mexico, couriers traveling on commercial and private aircraft, private vehicles, and via package delivery services.
Caucasian local independent dealers and, to a lesser extent, Asian criminal groups, are the primary wholesale and retail distributors of MDMA in Texas. Many retail-level MDMA distributors in Texas are middle and upper-middle class Caucasian high school or college students. MDMA typically is distributed at colleges, raves, nightclubs, and private parties. MDMA distributed in Texas often is stamped with a brand name or a logo. According to DEA, in the fourth quarter of FY2002 MDMA sold for $25 per tablet in Dallas, $16 to $20 per tablet in El Paso, and $10 to $30 per tablet in Dallas.
MDMA also is transported from Texas to destinations in other U.S. states. For example, some Asian criminal groups transport shipments of MDMA from Texas, primarily overland, to major drug markets on the East Coast.
A large proportion of the retail trade is conducted by people buying for their friends without making a profit, although usually gaining a few free tablets for their own consumption. Then there are the dealers who are trusted as connoisseurs of the drug, and will describe the subtle qualities of the particular batch from personal experience. This type of dealer never sells to the public but only to regular clients who respect them, so the dealer cannot afford to provide poor quality.
Another variation, more common among working class men, is for friends to arrange a meeting place, usually a pub, before a rave. One person knows of a supply and collects money on behalf of the others, then returns with the drugs which cost each person less than if they had bought separately. This method carries more risk, either of losing your money or of getting poor quality. The person buying for the others also runs the risk of far greater penalties.
A more commercial form of supply is by individuals who buy 100 or so and are either ‘known’ at certain clubs, or go around offering them for sale. They may be honest, especially if they are known, but they may also be selling fake pills. A new trend is for ‘retail specialists’ to sell in a club or at a rave. These are organized gangs, but probably not part of a large syndicate. They cooperate with security staff or the promoters of raves and clubs. The club or rave organizers put on a show of heavy security, searching people on their way in so as to exclude dealers. This leaves the way open for the gang to sell inside. Some members go around asking people if they want to buy drugs without carrying stock themselves so that, if arrested, they will not be accused of ‘supply’ and may get off with a fine. The stock and money is carried by members who are well protected by body guards, and lookouts warn of police activity inside and outside the venue. They have contingency plans worked out in case of a surprise raid, for example members who are free of drugs might cause a fight so as to attract the attention of the police while those carrying drugs and money escape.
Punishment for Ecstasy Possession, Distribution or Manufacturing
MDMA is a controlled substance in Texas. Unlike a state such as California, which has not explicitly scheduled MDMA, but instead considers it as within its broad “controlled substance analogue” provisions, MDMA is an explicitly scheduled substance in Texas. MDMA has been placed it in “Group 2″ of the Texas controlled substance hierarchy. (See Tex. Health & Safety Code, Sec. 481.103).
Punishment for Simple Possession of MDMA
The punishment for simple possession of MDMA in Texas is dependant upon the weight of the MDMA (See Tex. Health & Saf. Code, Sec. 481.116):
- Less than 1 gram = “state felony” with a mandatory minimum of 180 days in county jail up to 2 years and a fine of up to $10,000. (Tex Pen. Code, Sec. 12.35).
- 1 gram, but less than 4 grams = “felony 3rd degree” with a mandatory 2 year minimum, up to 10 years, and a fine of up to $10,000. (Pen. Code, Sec. 12.34.)
- 4 grams, but less than 400 grams = “felony 2nd degree” with a mandatory 2 year minimum, up to 20 years, and fine of up to $10,000 (Pen. Code, Sec. 12.33)
- 400 grams or more = mandatory 5 year minimum, with possible life imprisonment (Health & Saf. Code, Sec. 481.116)
Punishment for distributing or manufacturing MDMA, possessing it with the intent to distribute
Distributing or manufacturing MDMA, possessing it with the intent to distribute it is punishable as follows. (See Tex. Health & Saf. Code, Sec. 481.113):
- Less than 1 gram = “state felony” with a mandatory minimum sentence of 180 days in county jail up to 2 years and a fine of up to $10,000. (Tex Pen. Code, Sec. 12.35).
- 1 gram, but less than 4 grams = “felony 2nd degree” with a mandatory 2 year minimum, up to 20 years, and fine of up to $10,000 (Pen. Code, Sec. 12.33)
- 4 grams, but less than 400 grams = “felony 1st degree” with a mandatory 5 year minimum, up to possible life imprisonment and maximum $10,000 fine. (See Pen. Code, Sec. 12.32)
- 400 grams or more = mandatory 10 year minimum, with possible life imprisonment (Health & Saf. Code, Sec. 481.113)
Hire the Best Dallas Criminal Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
If you or your child has been arrested or charged with any crime involving ecstasy, you must act quickly. The drug laws are incredibly complex and difficult to navigate without the assistance of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Texas treats all Ecstasy crimes harshly. No one accused of an Ecstasy crime should attempt to handle their case without a good lawyer. The law provides the maximum possible sentence and it is up to your attorney to fight for your rights and work to improve your situation. At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we have successfully defended many types of drug charges throughout Texas and we can expertly handle your Dallas Ecstasy case.
Anyone under investigation for sales, possession, under the influence, manufacturing, trafficking, importing, distributing or transporting ecstasy can expect very serious penalties if convicted. At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we help clients who have been arrested for drug crimes involving ecstasy. Do not give up hope, even if you feel there may be solid evidence against you or a loved one, there are still many legal defenses that may help to have your charges minimized or dismissed entirely. Take advantage of the free initial consultation to discuss your options. The free consultation is an opportunity to discuss your case in detail and Dallas Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson will answer any questions that you may have regarding your ecstasy charges.
We can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 214-234-0111 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
Major Credit Cards Accepted.
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Hire the Most Dedicated Dallas Lawyer!
Drug crimes are covered by both federal and state laws in Texas. Federal offenses are regulated by The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, known as the Controlled Substances Act.
The Controlled Substances Act covers almost all the drug offenses in Texas and is codified in the Texas Health and Safety Code, Chapters 481 through 486. Because Texas is an international border state, drug traffic offenses are a main concern. The state of Texas also has a number of state drug laws which may not be applicable in other states.
What are the penalties for a drug conviction in Texas?
Drug offenses are among probably the most severe charges in criminal law. They carry with them severe penalties and can have other consequences in areas of one’s life like family life and employment. The legal penalties for drug crimes will depend on the nature of the drug offense, and will usually include a fine and/or a lengthy prison sentence. If you’re charged with a drug related crime, you need to contact the Leading Dallas Drug Crimes Lawyer as soon as feasible. The penalties for committing a drug crime can be quite severe, including actual prison time, sometimes for many years in bigger high profile drug instances. A conviction for a drug-related offense could not only damage your personal and professional reputation, but could result in actual termination from employment or the suspension or revocation of your professional licenses. It is not whether or not you will acquire a lawyer, rather, it is who you’ll get to represent you at your most vulnerable time.
What kinds of factors are regarded as in sentences for drug crimes?
In determining the sentence for a drug crime, a Texas court will consider the following elements:
- The kind of drug: The Controlled Substances Act classifies drugs into 5 “Penalty Groups”, with Group 1 being probably the most serious. For instance, cocaine is classified as Penalty Group 1, whereas prescription drugs are Group 3.
- The quantity of drugs in possession: Prison sentences or fines will increase according to the quantity of drug possessed. Greater amounts of the exact same drug will result in greater sentences.
- The purpose for which the drug is used: Simple possession is generally regarded as less severe than other crimes, which includes possession with intent to distribute, or manufacturing and delivering drugs
- Location of the violation: Drug offenses are regarded as much more severe if they take place in particular areas, such as near a school or day care center
An additional essential factor that a court will think about is whether or not the drug offense was combined with an additional offense. Numerous drug offenses are related to other crimes like conspiracy, theft, or assault. If the drug offense is related to another felony, especially a violent crime, the penalties will probably be much more severe.
Do I need a lawyer for a drug offense?
Drug offenses are serious and can result in felony charges. Consequently, the services of the Top Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyer can be essential when dealing with drug charges. This is especially accurate if the defendant is involved in numerous or repeat offenses. An experienced lawyer can assist explain the numerous requirements under Texas drug laws. In the event you or a family member is charged having a crime in the Dallas region, contact the Recommended Dallas Attorney for a free consultation having a successful criminal defense lawyer. They are able to provide compassionate legal counsel, accessibility and personal attention, years of experience, and aggressive protection of your rights.
Charles Johnson |
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Are you experiencing criminal charges of intent to distribute cocaine? Have you been charged with possession of marijuana? For aggressive representation from an experienced drug charge defense attorney, get in touch with our Dallas law office to schedule a no cost initial consultation. Are you worried about your adolescent who had been caught using drugs at school? At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, you will find a drug offenses lawyer who has over a decade of working experience preserving the liberties of individuals defending state or federal drug charges.
We can be reached at any hour, seven days a week.
Aggressive Drug Charge Defense Representation
We represent individuals fighting state or federal drug offense charges concerning the manufacture, distribution, sale, or possession of unlawful drugs, controlled substances, chemicals used within the illegal manufacture of controlled substances (operating a meth lab), and drug paraphernalia.
Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana, methaqualone, morphine, phencyclidine (PCP), crack cocaine, methadone, methamphetamine, Anabolic steroids, codeine and/or hydrocodone with aspirin, Valium, and Xanax are examples of controlled substances the manufacture, distribution, or possession of that can result in severe federal or state drug crime charges.
The Charles Johnson Law Firm strives to be certain that our clients’ protection under the law are defended throughout the entire case. Criminal defense attorney Johnson is proficient at counsel in pre-arrest negotiations, in plea bargain settlements, at trial as well as on appeal in state and federal drug crime cases. Should you are under investigation or have already been charged with a drug-related offense, criminal defense attorney Charles Johnson will be able to help.
Drug Possession Charges
In Texas, possession of an unlawful drug or possibly a controlled substance may be a misdemeanor or a felony depending upon the form and quantity of drugs concerned.
A teenage drug conviction will be able to also bring about lost job opportunities, including ineligibility for certain jobs or future career advancement. If a plea bargain is in our client’s best interests, we shall work hard to obtain the best deal possible. When possible, we work to get drug arrests removed from our client’s criminal record through expunction. Do not let drug criminal charges ruin your future.
At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we are willing to defend drug charges in court. For high school students, whether charged as an adult or a juvenile, possession of even a very small amount of a drug such as marijuana can result in lost educational opportunities, including attendance at the student’s college of choice or even the opportunity to go to college at all because of student loan ineligibility based on a drug criminal offense conviction.
Motion to Revoke Probation (MTR)
We understand that there are often psychological issues, such as bipolar disorder, underlying many drug problems, and we work on getting you the treatment you require and probation, reinstatement or termination as opposed to jail time. If you are going through a probation revocation mainly because of a probation violation, we will be able to help.
Dallas Drug Charges Defense Attorney: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
To find out how we will be able to help defend you against drug charges, speak to our skilled Dallas, Texas criminal defense lawyer today for a free initial consultation.
When you are confronting a charge and possible conviction for a drug offense, your future is at risk.
Dallas Criminal Lawyer
Charles Johnson |
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Drug crimes are covered by both federal and state laws in Texas. Federal offenses are regulated by The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, known as the Controlled Substances Act.
The Controlled Substances Act covers nearly all of the drug offenses in Texas and is codified in the Texas Health and Safety Code, Chapters 481 through 486. Since Texas is an international border state, drug traffic offenses are a major concern. The state of Texas also has several state drug laws which may not be applicable in other states.
What are the penalties for a drug conviction in Texas?
Drug offenses are among the most serious charges in criminal law. They carry with them severe penalties and can have other consequences in areas of one’s life such as family life and employment. The legal penalties for drug crimes will depend on the nature of the drug offense, and will usually include a fine and/or a lengthy prison sentence.
If you are charged with a drug related crime, you need to contact Dallas Criminal Defense Attorney Charles Johnson as soon as possible. The penalties for committing a drug crime can be quite severe, including actual prison time, sometimes for many years in larger high profile drug cases. A conviction for a drug-related offense could not only damage your personal and professional reputation, but could result in actual termination from employment or the suspension or revocation of your professional licenses. It’s not whether you will acquire a lawyer, rather, it’s who you will get to represent you at your most vulnerable time.
What types of factors are considered in sentences for drug crimes?
In determining the sentence for a drug crime, a Texas court will consider the following factors:
- The type of drug: The Controlled Substances Act classifies drugs into 5 “Penalty Groups”, with Group 1 being the most serious. For example, cocaine is classified as Penalty Group 1, whereas prescription drugs are Group 3.
- The amount of drugs in possession: Prison sentences or fines will increase according to the amount of drug possessed. Greater amounts of the same drug will result in higher sentences.
- The purpose for which the drug is used: Simple possession is usually considered less severe than other crimes, such as possession with intent to distribute, or manufacturing and delivering drugs
- Location of the violation: Drug offenses are considered more severe if they take place in certain areas, such as near a school or day care center
- Another important factor that a court will consider is whether the drug offense was combined with another offense. Many drug offenses are related to other crimes such as conspiracy, theft, or assault. If the drug offense is related to another felony, especially a violent crime, the penalties will be more severe.
Do I need a lawyer for a drug offense?
Drug offenses are serious and can lead to felony charges. Therefore, the services of a competent criminal attorney can be crucial when dealing with drug charges. This is especially true if the defendant is involved in multiple or repeat offenses. An experienced lawyer can help explain the various requirements under Texas drug laws.
If you or a family member is charged with a crime in the Dallas area, contact Attorney Johnson for a free consultation with a successful criminal defense lawyer. My practice is limited to criminal law. I can offer compassionate legal counsel, accessibility and personal attention, years of experience, and aggressive protection of your rights.
Charles Johnson |
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If you are charged with possession of drugs, either for personal use or with intent to sell, Dallas Criminal Defense Attorney Charles Johnson can determine which defenses might apply to your case should you plead not guilty. Different states approach the problem of illicit drugs in different ways, while the federal government tends to have the toughest drug sentencing guidelines. But drug possession defenses are fairly universal across state lines. Some defenses challenge the stated facts, testimony or evidence in the case, while others target procedural errors, often search and seizure violations.
Here are some defenses to drug possession charges, some more common than others:
Unlawful Search and Seizure
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to due process of law, including lawful search and seizure procedures prior to an arrest. Search and seizure issues are quite common in drug possession cases. Illicit drugs found in “plain view,” such as a car’s dashboard after a legal traffic stop, may be seized and used as evidence. But drugs found in the trunk of a car after prying it open with a crowbar, assuming the suspect did not give permission, cannot be entered into evidence. If the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated, then the drugs cannot be used at trial and the charges typically are dismissed.
Drugs Belong to Someone Else
A common defense to any crime charge is to simply say you didn’t do it. The drug possession equivalent is to claim the drugs aren’t yours or that you had no idea they were in your apartment, for example. Dallas Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson will pressure prosecutors to prove that the joint found in the car actually belonged to his or her client and not one of the other three passengers.
Crime Lab Analysis
Just because it looks like cocaine or LSD doesn’t mean it necessarily is. The prosecution must prove that a seized substance is indeed the illicit drug it claims it is by sending the evidence to a crime lab for analysis. The crime lab analyst then must testify at trial in order for the prosecution to make its case.
Dallas Drug Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson will make sure prosecutors are able to produce the actual drugs for which their client is being charged. Similar to the need for crime lab analysis, prosecutors who lose or otherwise lack the actual drugs risk having their case dismissed. Seized drugs often get transferred several times before ending up in the evidence locker, so it should never be assumed that the evidence still exists during trial.
Drugs were Planted
This may be difficult to prove, since a police officer’s sworn testimony carries a lot of weight in the courtroom. Furthermore, other officers may be reluctant to blow the whistle on a fellow officer. But Attorney Johnson can file a motion that, if approved by the judge, requires the department to release the complaint file of the given officer. This file contains the names and contact of information of those who made the complaints, who can then be interviewed by Attorney Johnson or his private investigator.
While law enforcement officials are free to set up sting operations, entrapment occurs when officers or informants induce a suspect to commit a crime he or she otherwise may not have committed. If an informant pressures a suspect into passing drugs to a third party, for example, then this may be considered entrapment. As a rule of thumb, entrapment occurs where the state provides the drugs in question.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you are charged with any of these or another drug related crime you need to contact Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyer Charles Johnson as soon as possible. The penalties for committing a drug crime can be quite severe, including actual prison time, sometimes for many years in larger high profile drug cases. A conviction for a drug-related offense could not only damage your personal and professional reputation, but could result in actual termination from employment or the suspension or revocation of your professional licenses. It’s not whether you will acquire a lawyer, rather, it’s who you will get to represent you at your most vulnerable time.
Charles Johnson |
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, drug crimes
, drug possession charges
, unlawful search and seizure
When Will The Police Stop A Person?
Generally, the police will stop a person for committing a traffic violation, for suspicion of being engaged in criminal activity, or to arrest the person for a crime. After being stopped by the police, a person will typically be questioned.
Can The Police Stop And Question People Who Are Not Under Arrest?
Yes. The police can stop a person, and ask questions, without “arresting” the person. Upon seeing suspicious activity, the police may perform what is called a “Terry Stop,” and may temporarily detain people to request that they identify themselves and to question them about the suspicious activity. The scope of a “Terry Stop” is limited to investigation of the specific suspicious activity, and if the police detain people to question them about additional matters, the stop can turn into an “arrest.” For their own safety, the police can perform a “weapons frisk” on the outside of a person’s clothes (sometimes called “patting down the suspect”) during a “Terry Stop.” During this frisk, if they feel something that may be a weapon, they may remove it from the suspect for further examination. However, they are not entitled to remove items from person’s pockets that do not appear to be weapons, even if they believe that the items are contraband.
When Is A Person “Under Arrest”?
Many people think of an arrest as being a formal declaration by the police, “You are under arrest,” followed by the reading of the “Miranda” rights. (As seen on TV: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you.”)Reality is a bit more complicated. An arrest occurs when a person no longer reasonably expects that he is free to leave. A “Terry Stop” is not an arrest, even though the person can’t leave during the investigatory questioning, as the detention is of short duration and is limited in its scope. (A “Terry Stop” may involve little more than a short series of questions, such as, “What is your name? Where do you live? Why are you here?”) However, if a person is not allowed to leave the scene for an extended period of time, the person may be considered to be “under arrest,” even though those words are never used. If a person is handcuffed, is locked in the back of a police car, or is otherwise restrained from leaving, the person will ordinarily be considered to be “under arrest.”
If The Police Ask To Search Me, My House, Or My Car, Do I Have To Say “Yes”?
No. You can refuse the police permission to conduct a search. Remember this – the only reason the police officer wants to perform a search is for evidence of criminal activity, and the fact that he is asking reflects an expectation that he will find some. You are entitled to say “No.” If the police officer has the legal right to perform the search, he will do so whether or not you agree. However, if he does not have the legal right to perform a search, your consent gives him that right.During an investigative stop, or a traffic stop, a police officer may ask if he can search you or your car. However, if you give the police officer permission, he can perform the search even if he otherwise had no legal right to do so. Some people don’t know, or forget, that they have an “open” bottle of liquor in the car – a bottle with the seal broken, whether or not the cap is off. Sometimes, people have knives or other weapons which can be classified as illegal “concealed weapons.” Sometimes, people forget that they have contraband in their cars, such as illegal drugs, or find to their chagrin that their teenaged child dropped a marijuana cigarette in the car. Unless you are the only person with access to the interior of your car, you may be in for a surprise if you grant permission for a search.
Do The Police Have To “Read Me My Rights” When I Am Arrested?
The police have no obligation to formally announce the arrest when it occurs, or to read a suspect his “Miranda Rights.” Typically, at some point the police will inform a suspect that he has been arrested. However, many defendants never receive their “Miranda Rights,” which relate to the validity of police questioning of suspects who are in custody, and not to the arrest itself.
What Is The Difference Between A “Terry Stop” And An “Arrest.”
While a “Terry Stop” can be made upon “reasonable suspicion” that a person may have been engaged in criminal activity, an arrest requires “probable cause” that a suspect committed a criminal offense.
Can the Police Arrest Me Without A Warrant?
For most misdemeanor offenses, a police officer can only make a warrantless arrest of a suspect if the offense was committed in the officer’s presence. (A notable exception is “domestic violence,” where the police are typically required to make an arrest, despite the fact that “domestic violence” charges are almost always misdemeanor offenses.) Officers can arrest people for felonies based upon witness statements, or where a warrant for the person’s arrest has been issued.
What Happens If I am Arrested Without Legal Cause?
It is important to note that an “illegal arrest” does not mean that a person can’t be charged with a crime. If a person is arrested illegally, and is searched or questioned by the police, evidence gained through the search or questioning may be declared inadmissible. However, there are circumstances where that evidence will be admitted into court despite the illegality of the arrest. Further, if a person has outstanding warrants for other charges, he may be detained on those charges, even though his initial arrest was illegal.
If I Am Arrested, Can The Police Search Me?
When the police make an arrest, they get the power to search the suspect and his immediate surroundings “incident” to that arrest. If the police arrest a person who was driving a car, they ordinarily get the right to search the entire passenger compartment of the car – and will usually also be able to search passengers for weapons. If the car is impounded, the police may perform an “inventory search” of the entire car, including the contents of the trunk.If you or someone in your family has been arrested, you probably aren’t sure where to turn or what to do next. While the arrest itself is a daunting situation, you can do several things right away to gain information and control. A positive first step is to contact the Charles Johnson Law Firm. Attorney Johnson will guide you through the complicated maze of the justice system.
Charles Johnson |
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, dallas criminal lawyer
, legal cause
, Miranda Rights
, Terry Stop
, traffic violation
On behalf of the Charles Johnson Law Firm:
If you face criminal prosecution, you want an experienced and knowledgeable attorney to protect your constitutional rights. A lot can be at stake. In addition to fines and penalties, you could face the forfeiture of assets or incarceration. If convicted of a felony, you might even risk the loss of certain basic rights, such as the right to vote or to possess a firearm. You want a lawyer who understands the unique aspects of the criminal justice system, who has successfully defended others in cases similar to yours.At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, I bring over a decade of criminal defense experience to clients throughout the great state of Texas. I have successfully handled many high-profile cases, including federal prosecutions for drug trafficking and importation. I use a skilled staff and team of investigators to prepare and present the best case for your defense.For a private meeting, contact me by e-mail or call my office at 214-234-0111 (toll free at 877-308-0100).
My Criminal Defense Blog
I set up this blog to provide useful information to people throughout Texas who face criminal investigation or prosecution. I will keep the blog updated, regularly posting articles on a wide range of topics, including:
I represent clients in state and federal prosecutions, as well as international criminal matters.This blog is intended to be a forum for the exchange of information. Please feel free to post your questions or comments regarding any matter discussed here.
Contact My Office
To set up a meeting, contact my office by e-mail or call me at 214-234-0111 (toll free at 877-308-0100). Se habla español.
Charles R. Johnson, Jr.
Charles Johnson Law Firm, Superior Criminal Defense
Charles Johnson |
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