Crimes or offenses against children are taken very seriously in the state of Virginia, and perpetrators are severely punished. With the advancement of technology, most people use various communication systems to commit these offenses against children. The law that prohibits the use of communication systems to commit crimes against children is found under Virginia Code 18.2-374.3. If you get accused of violating this law, a conviction will significantly affect your life negatively.
The penalties for this offense include extended incarceration in state prison and hefty fines. Aside from the penalties, the other repercussions of this offense are devastating to your career and life in general. When accused of this offense, getting an experienced criminal attorney to represent you is crucial to avoid hefty penalties or wrongful convictions. At Virginia Criminal Attorney, we are committed to defending our clients against these allegations while ensuring they receive a fair trial.
Overview of Virginia Code 18.2-374.3
The state of Virginia makes it a criminal offense to solicit a minor using any means of communication devices. The minimum jail sentence, when found guilty of this offense is five years. According to this law, any person found using communication systems to engage or try to engage children in sexual activities is guilty of the offense.
Under this statute, it is also illegal for a person to use bulletin boards or other electronic devices to violate a minor. According to this statute, any adult or person above 18 years should not use any communication system to seduce, solicit, or entice a person below the age of 18. It does not matter if the said minor is known to the adult or not.
Some of the violations an adult can get accused of when they use communication systems include:
Virginia Code 18.2-355 – Human trafficking for Child Prostitution or Labor
When an adult uses communication systems to entice a minor, they may be doing so for purposes of committing human trafficking offense. A minor can get lured to child prostitution without their knowledge when the perpetrator recruits them through a communication system. Perpetrators of these crimes are known to stalk their target victims through their social media accounts and start talking to them. They use electronic devices to communicate with the minor by seducing them into a life of child prostitution.
A perpetrator will convince the child of the minor they stand to make through the trade, making sure the child gets seduced by the information. The perpetrator is usually careful about its target. They will look at a child that seems disturbed or comes from a poor background. They use electronic media to send them photos of other children living their dream lives by accepting to be child prostitutes. The child desperate to get away from their impoverished lives will fall prey to the seduction and get used as a prostitute. This person controls them and earns money from selling the child as a sex toy to any person that desires them.
Other perpetrators will use electronic devices to lure minors into a life of child labor. Without knowing what lies ahead, the child may get lied to about signing up for camps and the benefits of these camps. They convince the child not to tell any adult of this communication and persuade them to meet them; they introduce them to a fun-filled life. A child being naïve can easily get seduced by the promise of fun and meet the perpetrator. Unknowing to the child, the person sells the child into forced labor, which is a crime against a child.
When this offender is found, he or she will get charged with using communication systems to enable a crime against a minor as well as violating Virginia code 18.2-355.
Virginia Code 18.2-374.1 – Child Pornography
Child pornography is a serious offense that gets severely punished in Virginia. Concerning Virginia code 18.2-374.3, a person can violate the law by sending child pornography through various communication systems. You can get charged with using communication systems to facilitate an offense against a child when you send pornographic images to a minor.
When an adult wants to commit lascivious acts or lewd deeds with a minor, they will do so to get sexual satisfaction or arousal. Using the computer or a phone, a perpetrator can send an underage video of sexual acts going on between adults or children. The person aims to entice the minor into the behavior and to perform it with them.
A perpetrator will try to befriend the minor either through their social media accounts or the phone. He or she will pretend to be caring and slowly introduce the child into pornography. The child may get lured to participate directly in videos or take photos of their genitalia and send the perpetrator. Child pornography is a sex crime that results in the perpetrator getting ordered to register as a sex offender.
Additionally, the state of Virginia prohibits a person from having child pornography material. If one has them, they get prosecuted in class six felony. A conviction, in this case, will earn the offender five years in prison.
When you download these materials and send them to a minor, you will not only get charged with committing a crime against a child but also with the distribution of child pornography. This will earn you a jail sentence of 20 years.
Aside from the above-discussed offenses, when you get charged with using communication systems to facilitate crimes against children according to code 18.2-374.3, many other crimes get incorporated. Below, we discuss the various ways a person can use communication systems to commit offenses against children.
How Communication Systems are Used in Facilitating Offenses Against Children
Communication systems used in facilitating offenses against children can be electronic or nonelectronic. With the advancement of technology, there are many ways a perpetrator can use communication devices to commit a crime against a child. Some of these are:
Cyberbullying is a common offense that gets committed against a child and sometimes results in them committing suicide. There have been reports of children getting recruited in cults online or getting bullied into committing crimes to get accepted. When a perpetrator is accused of cyberbullying a child, it means they have used electronic means of communication to abuse the minor.
The perpetrator befriends the minor and gets to discover their weaknesses. He or she then proceeds to use it against the child. The cyberbully may extort money from the minor by threatening to expose their secrets to the school or parents if they don’t get paid.
Cyberbullying is a severe offense that leads to psychological repercussions for the abused child. Although the minor is not under the direct care of the bully, the bully knows how to harm the child from a distance systematically. Child abuse is a criminal offense in Virginia, irrespective of how it is performed.
Committing Lewd Acts with a Minor
Committing lewd acts with a minor is a felony offense severely punished in Virginia. The law does not specify if the offense has to be directly committed for it to qualify as an offense. This means, even when the crime gets committed through a communication system, the perpetrator is violating the law.
For instance, if a sexual predator finds a child online, he or she would start by befriending them. Over time, they convince the child to remove their clothes to play a game. In the process, he may ask the child to touch their genitals, assuring them it will feel good. The child may find this as a harmless game since the person is not known to them. The perpetrator, while doing this, also gets sexual gratification from the act.
Lewd acts are the most common kinds of offenses against children using communication systems. The perpetrator to lure the child more will share videos of other children engaging in sexual acts and sometimes of grown-ups. He or she will ensure to award the child for the excellent work they do for touching themselves. This is an act of systematically brainwashing the child into committing sexual acts with them or others.
The perpetrator may proceed to ask the child to get a friend to join them and touch each other. Unknown to the minors, the perpetrator records the session and distributes the content like child pornography for financial gains. This is a serious crime against a child that gets the perpetrator severely punished.
Using Social Media
Almost every person has at least one social media account, including minors. When a grown-up intends to commit an offense against a child, he or she can get in touch with the child through their social media account. The perpetrator can solicit for sex directly or recruiting the child into a gang or cult. This all depends on the offender and the crime they want to commit.
Social media can also be used to recruit children to drug trafficking. This, according to the law, is an offense against children. There have been reports of children getting recruited in terrorism activities through their social media accounts.
The perpetrator sells their plan to the child by sending them materials to read that support their cause. They promise to take care of their families and give them money. These children get recruited to engage in a war they know nothing about. This is a criminal offense against a minor that receives felony prosecution and penalties.
Children also get introduced to using drugs through social media. Getting a child addicted to drugs is an offense against them. However, perpetrators seeking a market for their product will convince the child about drugs and get them hooked.
Video Calls and Regular Calls
Using a telephone, many crimes or offenses against children get committed. One of the apparent crimes is when the perpetrator makes a video call to a minor to engage in phone sex with them or lewd acts. This is an offense against a child that gets severely punished in Virginia.
A child can also have a stalker that will cause them to get scared. The stalker can use regular calls to threaten the child and force them to do certain things. Issuing criminal threats and stalking a minor is also a crime in Virginia.
Proving the Crime of Using Communication Systems to Facilitate Offenses Against Children
It is one thing to get accused of this offense, and it is another to get a conviction. The prosecutor must prove to the court that you committed this offense. This is done by establishing various elements of the crime. The prosecutor must show the court that:
- You used a communication system. This means that any communication device or system can be brought up to show your use of it to enable an offense against the child. If you used letters, emails, phone calls, or social media, the prosecution must demonstrate your use of them.
- Using the particular communication system, you reached out to the minor and facilitated an offense against them. For instance, if you were enticing the minor into a life of child prostitution, the prosecutor must demonstrate by use of evidence how you did that.
- That you knew the recipient of your communication was a minor. To get convicted of this offense, the prosecutor must prove that you knew the recipient was a minor, and you went ahead still.
- You had the intention to cause a reaction that would lead to an offense against the minor. For instance, if you were seducing a minor through a communication system, you must have had an intention. The prosecutor must prove your intention. If the purpose is not established, it may not be possible to find you guilty of the offense.
Proving this offense may be challenging for the prosecution. For a felony conviction against you to be proved, there must be no doubt that you committed the offense.
Penalties for Violating Virginia Code 18.2-374.3
Some of the most heinous offenses when this law is violated involve crimes against children. These acts start as cybercrimes. Sexual predators are more prevalent on the internet and use communication systems to carry out their offenses. When you are found guilty of using communication systems to commit lewd acts with a minor below 15 years, you will face criminal charges. If you exposed your genitals or other sexual parts, ask the child to touch themselves or others, entices them to perform sexual acts or related offenses, it is a criminal offense.
These types of sexual crimes will expose you to class five felony prosecution and conviction. In case you are seven years older to the minor and you know they are fifteen years or younger, you face between five and thirty years imprisonment. If you are charged with a subsequent offense of the same, a conviction, in this case, will see you face possible jail time of between ten and forty years. The ten years is a mandatory minimum sentence for this offense.
If the minor was between fifteen and eighteen years and you were seven years older, you will receive a class five felony prosecution. A subsequent offense under the same circumstances will see you face jail time of between a year and twenty years.
The criminal consequences and penalties when one is found guilty of offenses against children are severe. Due to this, it is imperative when accused of such a crime to get a criminal attorney. He or she will formulate a strong defense against the allegations.
Legal Defenses when Charged with Violating Virginia Code 18.2-374.3
As earlier stated, any crime that involves children is severely punished in Virginia. The consequences when found guilty of this offense are far-reaching aside from the criminal penalties. If you are a professional requiring a license to practice, your license may get permanently revoked. Additionally, your standing in the community and your reputation is irreparably tarnished. The hefty fines and extended state imprisonment time will alter your life completely.
Getting a criminal lawyer to fight these allegations on your behalf is crucial. Your lawyer will examine the circumstances of the alleged offense and the evidence against you. During the analysis, any loopholes that can poke holes in the prosecutor’s case are established. You must always remember that for a conviction, the prosecutor must present a solid case with no room for doubt.
Your lawyer in defending you will interview the alleged victim and investigate them to know their character. He or she will also interview the school teachers where the victim goes and other students. Their social media accounts will also get scrutinized to establish if the alleged victim has accused others before. Your lawyer will also bring character witnesses that will testify of your good character. All this is aimed at showing that you would never commit the offense you are charged with.
There are various defenses your lawyer will use to get you acquitted or charged with a lesser offense. Some of the defense strategies used will include:
The Content was not Harmful
If the information you shared with the minor was not offensive, obscene, or harmful, then you cannot be accused of using communication systems to facilitate an offense against the child. There is no offense in communicating with a child as long as the material is not harmful in any way.
You had no Intention of Seducing the Minor
For instance, if you asked the child to watch a particular program innocently with you and a sexual scene came up that you did not expect, you are not guilty of this offense. Your lawyer will argue that you had no way of knowing the program contained sexually explicit materials. Secondly, it was not your intention to seduce the minor with the program; neither did you intend to get sexual gratification as a result.
False accusations are common in criminal cases. In this regard, if a couple is fighting for custody of their child, a parent can cooperate with the child to accuse the other parent of calling the child with sexual suggestions. This will negatively affect the possibility of the other parent from getting custody of the minor.
A child can also make advances towards an adult, and when rejected, they accuse them of this offense. This is one of the reasons your lawyer will do a background check of the child to establish this fact. If your lawyer can convince the court you are falsely accused, the charges against you get dismissed.
This is common when people share names or a person hacks into another person’s social media account and uses it. A perpetrator may also not use their real images in their social media account and steal images from another person. If your pictures were stolen and a perpetrator pretended to be you while committing this offense, you may get charged with it.
Your lawyer will investigate the circumstances of the offense and produce evidence that you are not the real offender.
Sex Offender Registration in Virginia
As earlier discussed, one of the most common offenses, when charged with violating Virginia code 18.2-374.3, is committing a sexual crime against a child. When convicted of a sexual assault in Virginia, one of the most stringent penalties is the requirement to get registered as a sex offender. However, not all sex crimes require a perpetrator to register as an offender, although there are non-sexual offenses that will also need an offender to be registered.
In Virginia, according to code 9.1-902, some of the offenses that require an offender to get registered as a sex offender are:
- When an adult has sexual intercourse with a minor aged between thirteen and fifteen
- When convicted of breaking intending to rape or commit any sexual offenses against others
- Taking a child for child prostitution
- When convicted of using a minor for commercial sex trafficking
- If you are convicted of possessing child pornography materials for the second time, facilitating child pornography or solicitation of it
- If you are found guilty of soliciting a minor for sex through the computer
- When convicted of receiving money in exchange for providing a minor for sex prostitution
- If convicted of sexual abuse of a minor below 15 years
- When convicted of creating nude images of minors unlawfully
When you get registered as a sex offender on the above or any other offenses, the repercussions are far-reaching. Your record will be available to the public, and the law enforcement officers will be monitoring you always. You will also be required to disclose the status to potential employers and will be barred from certain areas where children frequent.
If you fail to register when you are required to, you will face class one misdemeanor prosecution. A conviction will result in you spending a year or less in prison or paying a fine not in excess of $2,500.
Find a Criminal Lawyer Near Me
Any offense against children in Virginia is taken seriously and severely punished. When you receive this allegation, you cannot ignore them and expect you will win. The state must protect minors, and law enforcement officers ensure this gets done. Getting an experienced attorney to fight the allegations against you is essential. At Virginia Criminal Attorney, we have extensive experience defending our clients against such claims. Reach us at 703-718-5533 and let us protect you against the accusations.