My question involves criminal law for the United States of America
I'm a student in law school, and I'm very interested in advocating for children, protecting them from predators and, internationally, being a force against sex trafficking and slavery. Enough about me - I am learning about the law and am having some trouble with specifics in this category.
When it comes to the act of soliciting a minor online, where it is a felony, I have not found a good answer on a specific stipulation regarding the perpetrator. Generally, a sting operation will explicate that the "child" the perp is contacting is under-age, often 12-14 (which is different in different states, according to their laws of course), and the act of "sex-chatting" with such minor is a punishable offense (although they wait to arrest upon also having evidence of travel, it seems). HOWEVER, what if the sting does not explicate the age of the fictional person?
I think I know the answer to that first question (of course there are no ramifications to the perp. The person sex-chatting with the "child" had no way of knowing it was a child, as ages were entirely anonymous), so here is a follow up: Assuming the perp cannot be held in the circumstance I specified supra, does this apply to a real life situation (NOT a sting)? For example, perpetrator "John McDoe" chats in graphic sexual terms with minor "Jane McMinor". Neither John NOR Jane have disclosed their full names OR their ages. John assumes that Jane is not a minor because he has no reason to believe otherwise, but in FACT Jane is a minor, having not disclosed this information for whatever reason. If the FBI were to investigate and charge John with a felony, what would the crime be, and would the fact that he had no knowledge at any point of Jane's age matter?
I have not seen any cases like this example so far, in my minimal research (I have not looked into a JP or the ALR yet, though I will soon to learn more on the whole matter and practice legal research), so it honestly seems as though because John has no knowledge of Jane's age or reason to expect Jane to be a minor, John cannot be justly accused of soliciting a minor. Am I missing something here?
I appreciate your help on this! It is important to know the specifics of the law if we wish to enforce it appropriately. Please try to avoid "it should be this way" statements, as I am looking for the black letter reason for why or why not, not the moral implications of the law as it stands. Please do your best to quote laws/cases that your answer is supported by. Thanks!
Edit: my title seems to have been cut off. Sorry for any confusion. Should have read "Specific Disclosure-Based Questions Pertaining to Solicitation of a Minor"