With the birth and explosive growth of the internet and social media came improved and immediate access to communication and information. Our desire for instant gratification was met through online shopping, instant messaging, and search engines that instantly point us to the information we want or need.
While this information access and instant communication has facilitated our lives in many ways, it also brings with it a darker side—internet sex crimes that often leave susceptible individuals only a click away from felony conviction.
When “barely legal” porn turns to not-legal-at-all child pornography, or when the person on the other end of the chat reveals that he or she is under the age of 16, or when a Facebook message about homework turns to an inappropriate relationship with a teacher, the consequences can be staggering. Even if no sexual contact occurs, viewing or sharing illegal images, engaging in sexual conversation with a minor, or soliciting minors via technology can have lifelong ramifications for those accused.
Sometimes, the anonymity of the internet can make it easy to seem like a person’s acts are not really harmful, and can make it difficult to resist the lure of illicit images or conversations. People tend to forget that the files and data do not just disappear once the computer is logged off or the files are deleted. Forensic investigators can recover deleted files, and undercover agents and child welfare groups such as the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) track IP addresses to find those involved in the online sexual exploitation of children.
Both state and federal laws strictly prohibit and punish internet sex crimes, and viewing or distributing child pornography or soliciting a minor online can lead to significant prison terms and sex offender registration. Being accused of a computer sex crime should never be taken lightly. It is imperative to insist upon your right to remain silent; do not consent to a search of your home, person, office, or devices; and call an experienced sex crime defense lawyer for swift and aggressive defense representation and counsel.
Any act which would be considered a sex crime without using the internet is also considered a sex crime when it involves the use of technology—social media, texting, instant messaging, download and storage of files, etc. Some of the most commonly prosecuted internet sex crimes in Oklahoma include the following:
Child pornography is defined by both state and federal law as sexually explicit images of a minor under the age of 18. This is an important distinction, because while a person has reached the age of consent in Oklahoma at 16, he or she may not be depicted in sexually explicit images or videos until he or she has reached the age of 18. For this reason, teens and adults involved in “sexting,” or sending sexually explicit images of themselves and others, can be charged with possession, production, or distribution of child pornography if the images are of individuals under the age of 18.
All of the above listed internet sex crimes are felonies, each carrying lengthy prison terms and each mandating sex offender registration.
Additionally, Oklahoma law makes it a separate and distinct felony to use a computer or network to break any of the state laws (21 O.S. § 1958). A person who has a sexually explicit online conversation with a minor may be charged with Lewd or Indecent Proposals or Acts to a Child Under 16, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison (minimum 25 if the child is under 12) and also with violation of the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act, which may bring an additional 5 years in prison.
Curiosity, sex addiction, or even a conversation that goes too far before the defendant realized that the person on the other end of the screen was a minor can all lead to felony sex crime charges. Additionally, a large number of people charged with computer sex crimes are caught as a result of online stings by undercover law enforcement and child exploitation task forces. Such operations must be carefully conducted within legal protocols to avoid entrapment.
If you or a loved one is accused of illegal online activity, secure legal counsel immediately to preserve your rights and build a strong and effective defense against sex crime charges.
While internet sex crimes are often charged as state crimes, the federal government is frequently involved in the detection, investigation, and prosecution of computer sex crimes. Because the internet has no geographical boundaries, internet sex crimes frequently cross state lines—child pornography may be distributed to people in other states and sexually explicit chats with minors may take place across the country or even across the globe.
Federal agencies such as the FBI, Homeland Security, and others often work to prevent, detect, and prosecute online sex crimes that victimize children. These agencies work under the authority of numerous acts of legislation, including the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act, the Child Sex Crimes Wiretapping Act, the Cybermolesters Enforcement Act, and the Internet Crimes Against Children Prevention Act.
In many cases, state and federal computer sex crimes are investigated by Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) created the ICAC task force program under the authorization of the PROTECT Act of 2008. These task forces are comprised of federal, state, and local law enforcement working together to eradicate internet sex crimes and the online sexual exploitation of children.
Federal sex crimes in Oklahoma are prosecuted in one of the three United States District Courts located in the state: the Western District, located in Oklahoma City; the Northern District, located in Tulsa; and the Eastern District, located in Muskogee.
Whether you are accused of a state or federal internet sex crime, your first priority should be to protect your rights by securing a sex crime defense lawyer. In Oklahoma, Coventon Criminal Defense has the experience, skill, and resources necessary to build a solid and successful defense. A conversation with a knowledgeable and effective attorney is just a phone call or click away. Call now or submit the confidential online case review form for a free consultation about your case.