In Washington State, it is illegal to communicate with minors in a way that encourages them towards sexual misconduct. The penalties are more severe if the communication is electronic, that is, by computer or mobile device, or if the offender has a prior criminal record involving sex offenses.
The Marshall Defense Firm Knows How to Defend You
At the Marshall Defense Firm, we have helped many clients who have been charged with Communication with a Minor for Immoral Purposes. We are ready to defend you vigorously and creatively against a CMIP charge.
Our first focus will be on the government’s behavior during your arrest. Did they violate the Fourth Amendment by making an arrest without probable cause, or conducting an unreasonable search? If you were questioned, did the police obey Fifth Amendment rules against coercive interrogation?
If evidence against you has been gathered by unconstitutional means, that evidence may be inadmissible at trial. It is possible that the prosecution will then have no case. We can vigorously investigate the circumstances of your arrest and bring motions to challenge admissibility of evidence.
Even if all the evidence the police have gathered is deemed admissible, there may be ambiguity in the communications. If there is room to argue your communications were not predatory attempts to discuss improper sexual acts, we can argue that point forcefully.
Washington Statute Penalizing Communications with a Minor for Immoral Purposes
The Washington statute against communicating with minors is RCW 9.68A.090. It makes it a crime to communicate with a minor (or someone believed to be a minor) “for immoral purposes”.
You may wonder what is meant by the phrase “for immoral purposes.” Washington courts say this means “for the predatory purpose of promoting the exposure of children to and involvement in sexual misconduct.” “Sexual misconduct” is not further defined in the law; it could be applied even to sex acts with minors that are not themselves against the law—for example, sex acts with persons 16 or 17 years old.”
The term “communication” is also broad. Courts have said it includes both conduct and speech. It is not a defense that the conduct or speech was not directly communicated to the minor or even understood by the minor, if the minor somehow learned of it. For example, one man was convicted for leaving notes on the lawn of his neighbor, for the attention of a teenager there. The teenager never read the notes, but her father did.
Electronic Communication and Internet Stings
CMIP changes from a gross misdemeanor to a felony when communication occurs electronically, for example, by text or internet. Police are thus encouraged to conduct internet “sting” operations, in which they go online and pretend to be a young person interested in sex. The police will have to show the fictive “teenager” said he or she was underage. But many people, when they interact online, find it difficult to disengage from a conversation when they get such information midstream.
Defenses against CMIP Charges
The prosecution must prove that you were the person who made the communication in question and that it was for a predatory purpose. We search for every opportunity to construe the evidence so that it doesn’t show those things.
If you sought documentary proof—say, a driver’s license—that the person was older than 18, that is a complete defense. The law recognizes that it is not your fault if the person showed you a fraudulent driver’s license. (Simply asking for the person’s age, or judging the person’s age by appearance, is not a defense.)
Penalties for Conviction
The penalties for CMIP depend on how it was conducted. If you have no prior criminal record, and the communication in question was simple speech or writing or some physical act, CMIP is a gross misdemeanor, which can be punished by up to one year in jail and a fine of as much as $5,000.
If the communication was electronic, or if you have a prior criminal record, then the offense is a Class C felony, which allows sentences as long as five years, and a fine of $10,000.
Whether it’s charged as a gross misdemeanor or a felony, conviction will require you to register as a sex offender.
We Will Fight for You
Even if the state’s case looks strong, there are still actions that can be taken before trial to lessen the impact of the prosecution on your life. We have extensive experience negotiating with prosecutors to have offenses reduced, sometimes both reducing the punishment and avoiding sex offender registration. We can develop strategies to demonstrate to the State both the weaknesses in their case and the qualities of your character.
Finally, if there is a trial, the lawyers of the Marshall Defense Firm are outstanding trial attorneys. We are often invited to teach trial skills to other lawyers. From voir dire to final argument, our knowledge of trial rules and tactics is bone deep, and we will use it on your behalf every step of the way.
What it’s Like to Have The Marshall Defense Firm in Your Corner
Respect and compassion are the foundation of our work. We take time to get to know you and your case. It’s where our fierce advocacy for you begins.
Then there’s our experience. For decades we have defended clients against charges of sexual misconduct. From that and our on-going study of the law, medicine, and psychology involved in these cases, we have exceptional skill.
And we pool that skill. We work as a team. We know that no one lawyer, no matter how brilliant, will have all the good ideas for your case.
Our final ingredient is relentless investigation and preparation. When we step into court to defend you, we are ready to do it well.