Online dating has transformed the world of dating and relationships. You need no longer go through the process of creating elaborate profiles on dating websites to engage in it. Apps such as Tinder, Grindr, OKCupid, and Plenty of Fish allow people to connect instantly at the touch of a button. These sites have no verification procedures, which means that anyone can use them and present themselves in whatever way they choose.
This leaves people a lot of room to break the law. Indeed, you may be an honest adult who wants to make a connection with another honest adult. But online dating can lead to outcomes that are the exact opposite of what you had in mind, and may in some instances put you at risk of committing a criminal act.
How to Date Online Safely and Legally
There are steps you can take to protect yourself from running afoul of the law in the online dating world. Although online dating is generally safe, you run the risk of violating laws related to preying on minors, cyberstalking, and prostitution. You cannot run a background check on every person you meet online. However, you can take prudent steps to protect yourself.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Avoid Sexting
Sexting is the act of sending or receiving sexually explicit or suggestive photos by phone. It is especially common among teenagers. It is important to understand that the possession or distribution of sexually-oriented images of a minor—anyone under 18 years of age—is a crime; it is a crime that comes with penalties that can mean the end of your life as you know it.
There is no way to verify the age of the person you are communicating with online. You should, therefore, avoid sexting altogether. If you receive such photos, immediately delete them and break off contact with the person. Ignorance of age is not a plausible defense if you are charged with trafficking in child pornography.
2. Always Ask For Age First
If you are chatting up someone online, you should be upfront about your age and ask theirs. If the person says that they are under 18, then you should break off contact. Do not be tempted into flirting; this can be construed as an attempt at solicitation, and the solicitation of a minor is a serious crime in California. A conviction can result in a $5,000 fine, up to a year in jail, and registration as a child sex offender. The last of these is especially damaging, as it will ruin your ability to earn a livelihood, live in a decent place, and even maintain a pleasant social life.
You have an obligation to carry out due diligence when it comes to investigating the background of potential dates. You can usually get some clue that a person is misrepresenting their age by their use of language and references. If you are unsure or uneasy about the situation, you should look up their profiles on various social media sites. Doing so will give you much more information about the person you’re speaking to.
3. No Means No
There is nothing charming or gallant about pursuing someone who has turned you down. If you are alarming, annoying, or tormenting someone by continuing to send them unwanted messages, you can be charged with cyberstalking. You can be hit with fines and even a restraining order. It is important to respect the boundaries of the individuals you communicate with online. If it is clear that your advances are unwanted, then you should acknowledge and honor the wishes of the other person.
How to Respond to an Accusation
If you have been accused of an online sex crime, you must take the matter seriously. A conviction can lead to the ruin of your life and reputation. Your first response should be to engage the services of a skilled Rancho Cucamonga criminal defense attorney at Newman & Allen. Before you say a word to the authorities, you should consult with a lawyer. It is important to remember that you are innocent until proven guilty and that you have a Fifth Amendment right not to give evidence against yourself.
The Rancho Cucamonga criminal defense lawyer you consult with will be eager to hear your side of the story. They will ask you to recount all interactions between you and the person with whom you’ve been communicating. This will provide the basis of the legal strategy that will be subsequently formulated and employed by your lawyer.
What a Rancho Cucamonga Criminal Defense Attorney Can Do
Most sex crime cases rely heavily on the credibility of the respective persons involved. With online sex crimes, there is a trail of correspondence that can be pulled up and analyzed. However, intention is still important. If, for example, you are accused of solicitation of a minor due to your communication with a person who deceived you about their age, your efforts to gather information about the person can be a factor in proving your innocence.
Even if you made a mistake and did things online that you should not have, your Rancho Cucamonga criminal defense lawyer will still be able to help you. A number of factors, including inexperience in online dating, testimonials about your character, and the non-existence of a criminal record, can be used to your benefit.
If you are in trouble with the law over online dating, you need legal representation. Call Newman & Allen today for a consultation.