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Unintentional online solicitation of minors

People you chat with online may bear no resemblance to the people they truly are. The Internet makes it easy for people to disguise a lot about themselves. You can't be certain information, like marital status, age and profile pictures or other images posted online are believable.

A lot of harm can occur when a Milwaukee resident makes contact with the wrong person online. A minor could be lured by an adult predator pretending to be another child. An adult can be fooled into thinking they're interacting with someone old enough to discuss or engage in sexual activities when minors pretend to be adults.

Technically, solicitation involves asking someone else to join you in committing a crime. Sexual conversations and many sexual activities between consenting adults aren't crimes. However, these same practices become crimes when minors – considered too young to give consent -- are involved.

State laws vary but proof of solicitation often does not require any sexual activity to happen. Charges sometimes are brought simply because an adult made a request with the intent to participate in a sexual activity with a minor. In some states, solicitation charges are filed even if the request never reached the intended recipient.

It may be difficult for prosecutors to prove a defendant had criminal intent if the accused believed the minor was a consenting adult. It also would be a challenge for a defense attorney to show an adult defendant had no intention of soliciting a minor. However, it's up to the prosecution to overcome any "reasonable doubt" on the part of the jury.

A university survey conducted for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children found 20 percent of minors admitted receiving online sexual solicitations. Researchers learned almost 48 percent of the solicitations were made by other minors. Attorneys have criminal defense strategies to help adults or juveniles unfairly accused of online solicitation.

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