Understanding The 4 Types of Internet Sex Crimes
If you’ve been charged with an internet sex crime, you’ll want to have an experienced criminal charges attorney defend you. Sex crimes are serious offenses and carry a heavy social stigma, even if committed under the anonymity of the internet. You could face prison time, mandatory registration as a sex offender, or a program of professional counseling.
Both the state and the federal government can prosecute you for an internet sex crime, even when the charges overlap. Because the crime took place online, the prosecutor can obtain a written record of the crime to use in court. To help you navigate the legal system, we’ve put together this guide to understanding the types of internet sex crimes.
Understanding Harassment and Stalking
New Mexico has criminal laws against both harassment and stalking, which include online communications. In fact, 25% of adults in the U.S. said they have experienced serious harassment online. The law defines harassment as repeated acts with the intent to “annoy, seriously alarm, or terrorize another person.” The harassment must be severe enough to cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress to be criminal conduct. If the state convicts you of harassment, the punishment is a misdemeanor in New Mexico.
Similarly, stalking occurs when a person repeatedly acts with the intent to make a specific person feel a “reasonable apprehension of death, bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint.”
The first conviction for stalking is a misdemeanor in New Mexico. A second or subsequent conviction is a fourth-degree felony. In addition to jail time, the state requires a person convicted of stalking to undergo a program of professional counseling. A federal court may also prosecute you for stalking under federal law and give you fines and jail time.
New Mexico also recognizes aggravated stalking in certain circumstances, including violating a restraining order or using a deadly weapon. The state charges a fourth-degree felony for the first conviction of aggravated stalking. A second or subsequent conviction is a third-degree felony. The state also requires a program of professional counseling or treatment for a conviction of aggravated stalking.
Unauthorized distribution of sensitive images, also known as “sextortion” or “revenge porn,” is a relatively new crime added to New Mexico’s criminal laws in 2015. Seen as a new avenue for domestic abuse, sextortion involves sharing another person’s sensitive images online without that person’s consent. To be criminal conduct, it must be so offensive that a reasonable person would suffer emotional distress.
In many cases of sextortion, the person originally gave the images to an intimate partner with the expectation of confidentiality. Then, the partner threatens to share the sensitive images online as a means to punish the person or coerce them into a sexual relationship. If the sextortion is done with the intent to harass, humiliate, or intimidate, it is a misdemeanor crime. A second or subsequent conviction is a fourth-degree felony.
Understanding Solicitation and Sex Trafficking
As with offline conduct, it is a federal and state crime to engage in sex for money or to offer to pay for sex. When you engage in prostitution or patronize a prostitute, you commit a petty misdemeanor. A second or subsequent offense is a misdemeanor.
Human sex trafficking is also a federal and state crime. Sex trafficking occurs when someone recruits, solicits, entices, transports, or obtains by any means another person with the intent or knowledge that force, fraud, or coercion will be used to subject the person to commercial sexual activity.
Sex trafficking is extremely common online, with more than 150,000 new escort ads posted every day. Of all sex trafficking cases active in 2018, 87.7% involved buyers of commercial sex who were solicited online. If you are convicted of human trafficking, you may receive a third-degree felony charge as long as the victim is over 16. The state may also require you to pay restitution to the victim for the gross income or value of the victim’s services and any other actual damages. There are also federal penalties for this offense.
Understanding Internet Sex Crimes Against Minors
The Crimes against Children Research Center reported 1,490 arrests in 2009 for internet sex crimes against minors. About 15% of those arrested possessed child pornography, a fourth-degree felony. Internet sex crimes against minors can involve forcible sexual assault or pedophilic child molesting. More often, they appear as statutory rape, where adults contact teenagers through social media and coerce them into sexual relationships.
Electronic Sexual Communication with Minors
Of all the types of internet sex crimes, New Mexico has only two laws specifically criminalizing sexual electronic communication. For electronic communication to be criminal, it must be between a minor and an adult at least four years older. An adult who sends obscene images of their intimate parts to a minor commits a fourth-degree felony. In addition, the state can convict you of possessing child pornography, even if the minor willingly sent you the images.
When an adult uses online communication to solicit a minor “to engage in sexual intercourse, sexual contact or in a sexual or obscene performance,” they commit a fourth-degree felony if the minor is between 13 and 16. If the minor solicited is under 13, it is a third-degree felony.
When you arrange a meeting with a minor and appear at that meeting, you have committed a third-degree felony if you expected to meet a minor between 13 and 16. If the minor is under 13, it is a second-degree felony. Even if the police conducted a sting operation and no minor was involved, the state can convict you of this crime if you believed you were communicating with a minor.
Of 18% of teens who have considered meeting someone in person that they met online, 58% have actually done so. If you meet and have sex with a minor under 13 or use force or coercion to have sex with a minor 13 to 18, you commit statutory rape or criminal sexual contact. Depending on the age of the victim and the severity of the crime, you may face a felony anywhere from the fourth to the first degree. In addition to jail time, the state will require you to register as a sex offender.
New Mexico Criminal Law Offices Is Here to Help You
Internet sex crimes carry no less severe penalties than offline sex crimes. If the state is charging you with such a crime, you deserve legal representation. When you call the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices, we will help you in understanding the types of internet sex crimes. We will listen to your unique case and talk you through your options for a legal defense. You are innocent until proven guilty. In over two decades of defending criminal cases, we have had sex offense charges dropped, cases dismissed, and penalties reduced for our clients. Don’t wait—contact us for a free consultation with one of our experienced criminal charges lawyers today.