First Amendment Impacts Cybercrime Laws in Texas

April 13, 2015 by David S. Seltzer

Glen Timberlake, a 27-year-old from Austin, drove all the way from central Texas to rural Michigan to meet a girl he met online two years ago while playing Minecraft. Police took him into custody when the girl's mother recognized him outside their home. He was carrying a butcher knife and claiming that he "wanted to get some answers."

The mother of the 14-year-old had already notified the authorities some time ago, claiming that the online relationship had became inappropriate, with Timberlake sending the girl videos of himself engaged in sexual acts, at least one involving a dog. The Austin Police Department was aware of Timberlake's odd behavior and had allegedly issued him a warning to stay away from the girl.

Although Timberlake was charged with numerous felonies and placed in jail on a $700,000 bond, authorities were not able to charge him with cyber solicitation of a minor, which carries a stricter penalty, due to recent changes in the statute. The 2013 session of the Texas State Legislature struck down the part of the law that would characterize explicit online conversation with a minor a crime, declaring that it violated the First Amendment. Now, adults are only breaking the law once they cross the line and attempt to act on their words.

Ironically, this change in the law means that a first-time offender caught in a cyber sex sting operation faces more time in prison than a violent interstate stalker like Timberlake.
Changes to the statute have local police departments scrambling to find a more effective way to investigate and prosecute these cases. They are no longer assigning them to the Child Abuse Unit and have moved them over to Human Trafficking, claiming that online predators use the same grooming behaviors and methods to lure their victim as human traffickers do.

A seasoned Miami cybercrimes attorney with Seltzer Law, P.A. can help you understand your defense options and create an effective response to your charges. Call us 24/7/365 at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333).