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Internet sex with minors: Texas law violates free speech

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed an indictment against a man charged with violating a law that outlawed sexually explicit Internet communications between an adult and a minor.
 
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    February 06, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- The sexual exploitation of minors is a subject that everyone is aware of. Hardly a day goes by when a new article or television report doesn't report another incident. However, in our efforts to protect children, do we sometimes go too far and forget about the rights of the ordinary citizen? The following is one example.

The case

As reported by kwtx.com, on October 31, 2013, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest criminal court, dismissed an indictment against a man charged with violating a law that outlawed sexually explicit Internet communications between an adult and a minor. Specifically, the charge was a third-degree felony for communicating in a sexually explicit manner with a person he believed to be a minor with the intent to arouse or gratify sexual desire.

The alleged intent of the 2005 law was to prohibit "grooming" (that is, the behavior or predators befriending children prior to making explicit comments), but the court unanimously determined that the law violated free speech. A companion law outlawing the sexual solicitation of minors was left unaffected.

The state's lawyers argued that "perverts will be free to bombard our children with salacious emails and text messages," but the court, after applying the presumption, as required by the Constitution, that regulation of speech based on content are invalid and subject to strict scrutiny by the courts, concluded that the law was overbroad because it prohibited a wide array of constitutionally protected speech and was not narrowly drawn to achieve only the legitimate objective of protecting children from sexual abuse. The court went on to say: "[The law] covers a whole cornucopia of 'titillating talk' or 'dirty talk.' But it also includes sexually explicit literature such as 'Lolita"... and Shakespeare's 'Troilus and Cressida'. . . A [man] . . . may sit in his armchair and think salacious thoughts, murderous thoughts, discriminatory thoughts . . . free from the thought police. It is only when the man gets out of his armchair and acts upon his thoughts that the law may intervene."

The solution

Banning constitutional activities on the Internet is not the solution to the "Internet sex" problem. It should be kept in mind that laws banning sexual solicitation and other "explicit" behavior are perfectly appropriate and valid.

Another avenue to address this problem is that of Internet safe use. Steve Dorman, a proponent of parental and teacher involvement, has five recommendations, as reported in the Journal of School Health:

- Parents, teachers, and schools may purchase devices which can filter pages that parents and teachers consider harmful or offensive.

- Children viewing television and using the Internet should be supervised in the same way.

- Children should avoid bulletin boards and chat rooms, as these are places where they might be introduced to strangers.

- Teachers should follow policies and procedures which have been developed for student and faculty Internet use.

- Children should be taught how to use the Internet in order to find the information that they need, while avoiding sites that are useless and harmful.

Despite the above recommended solutions, you may still find yourself accused on an Internet communication sex crime involving a minor. If this unfortunately happens, you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to investigate the facts and determine whether your constitutional rights are being violated.

Article provided by Law Offices of Jed Silverman
Visit us at www.jedsilverman.com



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