Grits for Breakfast pointed me to a very interesting new blog “Just Rants and Raves” written by a guy being supervised on a Dallas County sex offender probation. I hope to see more “probation blogs” pop up, because I think it will be instructive for everyone in the system. I’m sure that our local Austin criminal defense bar would find them fascinating. (If it’s not obvious, I’ll point out that not many defense lawyers have actually been on probation.)

The probation blogger was convicted of online solicitation of a minor, which is not listed under Chapter 21 Sexual Offenses, but instead Chapter 33 Computer Crimes of the Texas Penal Code. (Read his first post for his description of the offense, and the ensuing court case.)

One of the comments on Grits’ post asks:

So, there’s a law that says you can’t meet an underage person over the internet? Meeting someone underage is equivalent to statutory rape? A sex offense has been committed when 2 parties meet? Fine line to entrapment, no?

I realize we have similar laws to prevent homicides: as in you can get nailed for attempted murder by actively developing a plot to kill someone…but this seems different. You have to be looking into someone’s head to apply the law.

Well, I’d encourage a reading of the statute itself, because more than just meeting someone underage is required. But, yes, it also involves looking at the defendant’s intent because it requires the element of “intent that the minor will engage in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with the actor or another person”. Usually the state’s attempt to prove this part involves the saved conversations that have been recorded over email, instant messaging, or chat rooms.

As for entrapment? As I’ve blogged about previously, entrapment requires that the inducement by the state was of such a nature that a normally law abiding citizen would have succumbed to it, and committed the offense. I doubt a lot of jurors will publicly agree that they would have gone out and tried to meet the underage girl for these purposes (even the ones that might have).