LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Patrick E. Stegall | Jun 26, 2012

Memphis Sex Crimes Lawyer On: Tennessee's Solicitation Laws

Tennessee’s offense of solicitation of a minor is found in the Tennessee Code Annotated Title 39, Chapter 5, Part 9. Title 39 contains all of the state’s criminal offenses, and Chapter 5 is for sex crimes. Solicitation of a minor is a serious and complex offense because it contains so many elements and encompasses numerous actions. It criminalizes many types of activities, making it easier for the state to charge an individual. The penalties are harsh.

Under this law, it a crime for a person age 18 or over to command, request, hire, persuade, invite, or attempt to induce someone that the person knows or should know is less than 18 years old (or is a law enforcement officer posing as a minor that the solicitor reasonably believes is less than 18), through oral, written, or electronic communication, email or internet service, directly or through another, any conduct that if completed would constitute a sex offense.

The sex offenses listed in the solicitation law are numerous. They are: rape of a child, aggravated rape, rape, aggravated sexual battery, sexual battery by an authority figure, sexual battery, statutory rape, especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, and sexual activity involving a minor.

I told you this law was complex, right? Essentially, the Tennessee solicitation of a minor statute says that if an adult communicates to a minor through any means (talking in person, phone call, text message, email, internet chat) about a sex act with or involving the minor, a crime has been committed.

The punishment for this law varies. Under Tennessee law it is set at one classification below the sex crime solicited. Felonies and misdemeanors are classified by letters, A through E, with A being the most serious and E being the least. So if an individual makes a solicitation of a minor that would constitute a Class D felony if committed, they would be charged with Class E felony. If they made a solicitation that would constitute a Class E felony if committed, they would be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. Statutory rape, for instance, is either a Class D or E felony depending on the ages of the parties. If the ages of the parties would make it a Class D felony if actually committed, then solicitation makes it a Class E felony, one classification lower.

Most of the solicitation offenses are felonies. Many are non-diversion offenses. Diversion is a Tennessee law, found in Tennessee Code Annotated Title 40, Chapter 35, Part 3, which allows first time offenders for certain offenses to have the charge removed from their record following a guilty plea and probation. However, the law states that certain crimes cannot be removed, including many of the sex crimes listed in the solicitation law. Furthermore, all solicitation crimes require registration on Tennessee’s sex offender list. Being on this list is public record, requires annual reporting to the local police, and places severe restrictions on where a person can live, work or visit. For more information, please see my article on Tennessee sex crimes.

Solicitation of a minor in Tennessee is a very serious charge. Because of the complexity of the law, the individual needs to understand exactly which offense or offenses they are accused of soliciting, and what is the maximum punishment for that offense. He or she needs to know if they face the possibility of being a permanent convicted felon and/or having to go on the sex offender registry list. Once these questions are answered, they can begin deciding which options are best for resolving the case.

Patrick Stegall is a Memphis sex crimes lawyer. Being charged with a sex offense is a serious matter. The penalties are harsh, and people convicted of sex crimes may find it hard to find a job or even a place to live. For more information on Tennessee sex crimes, please visit Mr. Stegall online at http://www.stegall-law.com.

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