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Use of a Computer to Facilitate a Child Sex Crime

How serious is using a computer to facilitate sex with a child?

As technology evolves, communication more-frequently occurs electronically. Technology has made it easier and faster than ever to communicate with one another.  Adults frequently use this technology for dating and sexual encounters.  However, with this technology comes the use for more criminal means.  Criminals use this technology and commit sex crimes over the internet, victimizing adults and children alike.  Obviously, using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime is a very serious criminal offense.

‘To Catch a Predator’

Back in the early 2000’s, a popular TV show on Dateline NBC called ‘To Catch A Predator’ focused on these on-line encounters. This show was a reality television series that featured hidden camera investigations into online sex crimes. Investigators would pose as underage children online and target adult suspects seeking to engage in sex with underage children. Once the suspects would arrive for the sexual encounter with the “child”, the host of the show would appear and confront the suspect.  Local law enforcement agencies cooperated with these investigations.  The host confronted suspects.  And then police arrested them.  Sting investigations like these still commonly occur today.

Wisconsin Statute 948.075

It is a crime to use a computer to communicate with a minor with the intent to engage in sexual contact. In Wisconsin the use of a computer to facilitate a child sex crime is governed by Wisconsin Statute 948.075. This statute makes it a crime to use a computerized communication system to communicate with an individual who the actor believes or has reason to believe has not attained the age of 16 years old with the intent to have sexual contact or sexual intercourse with the individual.

What is a Computerized Communication?

When Statute 948.075 was drafted, it is clear “computerized” communication meant communications done with the use of a computer. However, as technology has evolved, so too has the meaning of “computerized.” In addition to the classic desktop or laptop computers, we now have tablets and smart phones. The Courts have been clear that using any of these devices to communicate can be considered “computerized communications.” All of these devises now have the capability to not just send written messages, but also send picture messages and videos. These devices are more and more like computers and thus are being treated so by the courts.

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The Age of Person Communicating With

The statue requires the actor believes or has reason to believe the person he or she is talking with has not attained the age of 16.  If the victim is actually under 16, the government has an easier job.  The other way this part can be satisfied is if the actor has reason to believe the person they are communicating with is under the age of 16. This is the part we see when police are posing as underage individuals. In these situations, the State will turn to the content of the messages to prove the actor had reason to believe the person they were communicating with was under the age of 16.

Intent

The difficult part of computer sex crimes is the intent requirement.  The government must prove the defendant intended to have sexual contact or sexual intercourse with the minor.  This is necessary to a finding of guilt.  A crime occurs even if no sexual contact does.  To prove intent the State generally looks to see if there is any further acts beyond just the computerize communication. Commonly this will include the actor showing up at a predetermined location to meet with the suspected minor. However, that is not the only act the State can point to in an effort to show intent.  Going to the store might be enough.  Perhaps the defendant discussed buying condoms with the victim.  Buying those condoms shows intent.

Intent generally focuses on the actual conversation.  That’s key.  But beyond that, what happens after the communications is equally important for intent.

A young girl is preyed upon while using her computer.
Using a computer to facilitate sex with a child is a very serious crime.

Punishment

Using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime is a very serious offense. It’s still a felony in Wisconsin, even if there was no sexual contact. Additionally, even if the “minor” turns out to be a police officer the offense is still a Felony. Anyone found guilty of using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime is guilty of a Class C Felony. This means the maximum possible penalty is 40 years in prison.

Contact Meyer Van Severen, S.C.

The criminal defense attorneys at Meyer Van Severen S.C. frequently defend sexual assault charges.  Contact our skilled defense attorneys at (414) 270-0202 to begin speaking with someone about your charges.  We answer phones 24/7 at (414) 270-0202.

Attorney Matt Last