Internet Stings — Communicating With A Minor For Immoral Purposes.
Often what is said online is pure fantasy. However, the fact that a person never intended to act on what was said or, even more importantly, would have been unable to complete the crime, is not a defense. Talking in a sexually suggestive way online with someone who claims to be a minor is a felony sex offense, regardless of whether any efforts to meet are even discussed. We see clients charged with offenses against children who live in different states and whom they will never meet.
The Elements Of Communicating With A Minor For Immoral Purposes — What The Government Has To Prove.
In order for a person to be found guilty of Communicating with a Minor for Immoral Purposes (CMIP) the government must prove that the person either was a minor or that the person communicating with them believed they were a minor. This communication can be in person, or via an electronic form of communication. The law reads:
(1) Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, a person who communicates with a minor for immoral purposes, or a person who communicates with someone the person believes to be a minor for immoral purposes, is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.
(2) A person who communicates with a minor for immoral purposes is guilty of a class C felony punishable according to chapter 9A.20 RCW if the person has previously been convicted under this section or of a felony sexual offense under chapter 9.68A,9A.44, or 9A.64 RCW or of any other felony sexual offense in this or any other state or if the person communicates with a minor or with someone the person believes to be a minor for immoral purposes through the sending of an electronic communication. RCW 9.68A.090
Defenses To Communicating With A Minor For Immoral Purposes. Online Communications Defense to CMIP.
If a person is communicating only online with a person who claims to be an adult, then that person cannot be charged with Communicating with a Minor for Immoral Purposes regardless of the person’s true age. In other words, if a child claims to be an adult online then the fact they turn out later to be a minor should not lead to prosecution if the conversation was sexual in nature. The government must prove that the person intended the communications to be received by a minor, and if they have claimed to be an adult then this cannot be proven. See State v. Aljutily, 149 Wn.App. 286 I2009).
In Person Communication Defense to CMIP.
It is often very difficult to tell the true age of a young person these days, and the person who believes they can without any further documentation takes a very real risk if they discuss sexual matters with a person who turns out to be a minor. The law in Washington does provide a defense if a person makes a diligent effort to determine if they are talking with a minor. The law reads:
(3) In a prosecution under RCW 9.68A.090 (CMIP) … it is not a defense that the defendant did not know the alleged victim’s age. It is a defense, which the defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence, that at the time of the offense, the defendant made a reasonable bona fide attempt to ascertain the true age of the minor by requiring production of a driver’s license, marriage license, birth certificate, or other governmental or educational identification card or paper and did not rely solely on the oral allegations or apparent age of the minor. RCW 9.68A.110 (3)