Internet Sex Crimes and Penalties

The internet provides us with so many benefits – endless entertainment, work opportunities, constant connection, and more. However, like most things in life, along with the good comes the bad. Numerous sex crimes are facilitated by or occur entirely on the internet. Here, we discuss the most common internet sex crimes in North Carolina and the associated penalties. 

Online Solicitation of a Child

It is illegal in North Carolina to use the internet to lure a child to meet up to perform sexual activity. Anyone who knowingly and intentionally uses a computer or other electronic device to coerce, entice, or order a child sixteen to meet up to engage in unlawful sexual activity can be charged with solicitation of a child by computer. Only those who are at least sixteen years old themselves, and are at least five years older than the child victim, can be charged with this crime. 

This crime is particularly tricky, as a person can be charged with solicitation even if they are not communicating with a child under sixteen. They only need to believe that they are doing so. 

Online solicitation of a child by computer is a Class H felony in North Carolina. The punishment is up to thirty-nine months in prison. If the defendant meets up with the child in person, the crime becomes a Class G felony, which is punishable by up to forty-seven months in prison. 

Sexting and Child Pornography

Neither sexting between adults nor pornography is illegal in North Carolina. However, child pornography, which includes sending or possessing sexually explicit images of minors, is illegal. There is no anti-sexting statute in North Carolina like there is in some states, so the pornography laws (sexual exploitation of a minor) are applied to sexting cases. The penalties are harsh and the law applies even for minors who text or possess sexually explicit images of other minors, including those with whom they are in a consenting relationship. 

There are three degrees of sexual exploitation of a minor:

  • First-degree sexual exploitation of a minor: It is illegal to entice or coerce a child (anyone under eighteen) to engage in sexual activity to produce pornography. This is a Class C felony and the penalty is forty-four to ninety-two months in prison. 
  • Second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor: It is illegal to distribute, record, or copy a recording of a child engaged in sexual activity. This is a Class E felony and the penalty is fifteen to thirty-one months in prison.
  • Third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor: It is illegal to possess an image or video of a child performing a sexual act. This is a Class H felony and carries a four to eight-month jail sentence. 

If the defendant is a repeat offender or has prior convictions, the penalties will be harsher. If the images depict violence or sexual abuse, the penalties will be even harsher. 

Internet Sex Crimes Are Serious Offenses 

A conviction for online solicitation or sexual exploitation of a minor carries serious consequences. Not only are these felonies punishable by prison time and fines, but a conviction most often requires lifetime registration as a sex offender. If you have been accused of an internet sex crime, your liberty and reputation are at stake.