What If A Minor Lies About Their Age Online?
Meeting people online is fast and easy, especially for the younger generations. You can scroll through many people quickly and efficiently and strike up a conversation with anyone you like. However, this practice can be very dangerous.
You might be honest online and show your true self, but others might not. Someone could easily say they are of age, and you might have no idea. They could dress older, appear to act older, and even post pictures of themselves holding an alcoholic beverage or at a college party. Notwithstanding, you could face statutory rape charges for having sex with someone under age in some circumstances.
What if a minor lies about their age online? This is a serious question. If you suspect someone is lying to you or the State has charged you with getting involved with a minor when you didn’t know their true age, contact the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices. We can answer this question in greater detail as it pertains in particular to your situation. Then, we can rely on our decades of experience to develop a defense strategy that gives you the best chance to avoid the potentially life-altering consequences that follow a sexual assault conviction.
What Happens if a Minor Lies About Their Age Online?
Facing a criminal prosecution seems patently unfair if someone lies about their age when you meet them online. The offenses you may face include criminal sexual penetration, criminal sexual contact with a minor, and enticing a child—which all carry significant prison time and require you to register as a convicted sex offender.
Criminal Sexual Penetration
According to New Mexico law, you could face the charge of criminal sexual penetration in the fourth degree for having sex with someone under age. This charge applies if you engage in sexual penetration with a child between the ages of 13 and 16 if you are older than 18, and there is an age gap of four years or more between you and the victim.
Criminal sexual penetration refers to engaging in sexual intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, anal intercourse, or penetration of the genitals or anus of another with an object. The law does not require emission, and the crime is completed upon penetration, however slight.
No force or coercion is necessary for this charge to apply.
If you are more than four years older than a victim between 13 and 16, you face a fourth-degree felony which carries a basic sentence of 18 months in prison.
Criminal Sexual Contact with a Minor
Criminal sexual contact with a minor refers to unlawfully and intentionally touching the intimate parts of a child or causing a child to touch another’s intimate body parts. Intimate parts refer to the genital area, groin, buttocks, anus, or breasts.
Sexual contact with a minor under 13 is a crime. However, sexual contact between people who are both 13 to 18 is not a crime unless the perpetrator uses force or coercion to commit the act.
Sexual contact with a minor under 13 is a sexual offense against a child, and the State will charge the crime as a second-degree felony. The punishment is at least 3 years minimum mandatory time in prison, with a basic sentence of 12 years in prison.
Sexual contact with someone over 13 but up to 18 is a fourth-degree felony.
Enticement of Child
Enticement of a child means enticing, persuading, or attempting to persuade a child under 16 to enter a vehicle, building, room, or a secluded area with the intent to commit a crime. Additionally, enticement of a child happens if you have “possession” of a child under 16 in a vehicle, building, room, or secluded area with the intent to commit a crime.
Enticement of a child is a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor charges carry a jail sentence of no longer than one year and a fine of up to $1,000.
Anyone convicted of a sex offense runs the risk of having to register as a sex offender in New Mexico. Additionally, the judge could order you to be on probation for a very long time. You may also need to attend sex offender counseling.
Sex offenses have serious collateral consequences as well. You could lose your job and your chance to go to college and have restrictions on where you can live and the people with whom you can associate. Finally, immigration difficulties could arise for non-citizens even if they legally reside in the U.S.
What Is the Best Defense if Someone Lied About Their Age Online?
New Mexico law appears to be more lenient than other states when it comes to underage sex. Some states do not have so-called Romeo and Juliet laws like New Mexico.
The laws in those states indicate that no person under a particular age has the legal capacity to consent to sexual intercourse. Consequently, New Mexico relaxed its laws to adapt to the reality that young people have sex.
New Mexico law prevents criminal prosecution of people who engage in sexual intercourse as teenagers if there is no force or coercion. As a result, the law protects young people from facing embarrassing situations and potentially life-altering legal consequences for engaging in sex.
But the exception only applies if you are relatively close in age to the alleged victim. It is appropriate to ask, What if a minor lies about their age online, and it turns out that I’m more than four years older?
That is an important question, and that scenario is not out of the realm of possibility. You could be a college student who finds someone local online who lies about their age. So what do you do in that situation?
With help from one of our highly experienced and accomplished criminal defense lawyers, you might be able to argue that you are not guilty because you made an honest mistake.
Mistakes of fact are not usually a justification for committing a crime. However, decisions from some of New Mexico’s appeals courts suggest otherwise. In New Mexico, you could ask the judge to instruct the jury that they should evaluate whether you made an honest mistake of fact.
The judge can give this instruction to the jury if evidence suggests that you were mistaken about the alleged victim’s age.
Experienced Criminal Lawyers Ready to Fight for You
A sex offense charge could severely alter your life. You must act immediately to prevent further harm to you and your family. Contact us at the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices for help from knowledgeable defense lawyers with a demonstrated track record of success.