What is Sextortion in Texas?

what is sextortion

Understanding the Crime and Potential Defenses

Sextortion is a type of blackmail where the perpetrator demands nude images, videos, sexual favors, or money/gifts from the victim by threatening to expose or distribute their private, sexually explicit content if they don’t comply. In Texas, this criminal charge is called “sexual coercion” under Penal Code 21.18 and is punishable as a felony crime.

At Whalen Law Office in Frisco, our criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience defending against sextortion and other sex crime allegations across Texas. We understand how to protect your rights and freedom when faced with these extremely serious charges carrying potential jail time.

If you or a loved one has been accused of sextortion or sexual coercion, don’t wait to get the legal representation you need. Contact the Whalen Law Office immediately for a confidential case evaluation.

Sexual Coercion Under Texas Penal Code 21.18

In the state of Texas, sextortion falls under the sexual coercion statute laid out in Penal Code 21.18. Under this law, a person commits the crime of sexual coercion if they intentionally threaten to commit specific sex crimes, including prostitution, trafficking, invasive visual recording, or sexual assault, UNLESS the victim provides:

  • Intimate visual material (nude/sexually explicit photos or videos)
  • Sexual acts causing arousal or gratification
  • Money, gifts, or other items of value

The threat can be explicit through coercion, extortion, or implied. And it applies regardless of how the threat is communicated – in person, via email, text, social media, chat rooms, or other digital means.

Examples of Sextortion

Sextortion can take many forms, but some common allegations include situations where the perpetrator:

  • Hacks into the victim’s accounts/devices to steal nude photos or videos then demands money or more explicit content to not release what they’ve obtained;
  • Poses as a romantic interest online, builds up trust and a relationship, then starts pressuring the victim for explicit content through threats and extortion;
  • Secretly records the victim in a compromising sexual situation without consent, then threatens to distribute the material unless paid off;
  • Obtains consensual nude images from the victim, then changes tactics and engages in malicious sextortion demands for additional content.

In each scenario, the perpetrator attempts to illegally obtain additional sexual material, participation in sex acts, money, or other benefits by issuing threats. And too often, it becomes a cycle where demands escalate even after initial compliance, perpetuating the exploitation.

Potential Charges and Penalties for Sextortion in Texas

Under Penal Code 21.18, sextortion is classified as a state jail felony. That means potential imprisonment of 180 days up to 2 years, along with a maximum $10,000 fine.

However, if the offender has a prior sextortion conviction, that elevates the charge to a 3rd degree felony. At that level, penalties can include 2-10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

It’s also important to note that if the sextortion involves a minor victim under 18, the perpetrator could additionally face charges like sexual performance by a child, possession of child pornography, or even more severe offenses – all carrying their own lengthy potential sentences and fines.

So, as you can see, sextortion is taken extremely seriously under Texas law due to the traumatic impact on victims. Serious criminal penalties aim to punish offenders and deter this reprehensible crime.

Defending Against Sextortion Allegations

Of course, accusations alone don’t equate to guilt – and there are indeed many potential defenses against sextortion charges that an accused person can explore with the right legal counsel.

While the specific strategy depends on the facts of each case, some common defense angles include:

  • Lack of intent: The alleged sextortion actions were unintentional, accidental, or resulted from a misunderstanding between parties.
  • Factual innocence: There is evidence showing the accused didn’t actually take the actions claimed or the accuser has provided false or misleading statements.
  • Mistaken identity: The wrong person has been charged due to impersonation, account hacking, or other identity mix-ups online.
  • Consensual conduct: While explicit content may have been shared, there was no threat, coercion or extortion involved by either party.
  • Illegal search/seizure: Evidence was improperly obtained and violated the accused’s Constitutional rights, rendering it inadmissible.

The key is working closely with a skilled, aggressive criminal defense attorney who has extensive experience defending against sextortion and related charges, like Internet crimes against children, sexual assault, etc. With the right legal strategies, it may be possible to secure reduced charges, suppressed evidence, or even a full dismissal of the sextortion accusations.

Contact Our Experienced Sextortion Defense Attorneys

At Whalen Law Office, our team has spent years defending clients facing the most serious and complex charges involving sex crimes, Internet offenses, and allegations like sextortion. We understand the life-altering consequences of a conviction, which is why we dedicate our full resources to providing legal advocacy.

Our sextortion defense strategies are carefully crafted based on the unique facts of each case. We pursue every avenue – whether that’s poking holes in the prosecution’s evidence, raising issues of Constitutional violations, or introducing mitigating factors and circumstances. Our goal is always to secure a favorable outcome that protects your freedom, reputation, and future.

While sextortion charges are extremely serious, you can count on our team to mount the strongest possible defense allowed under Texas law. Reach out today, and let’s start fighting for the favorable resolution you deserve.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

LinkedIn | State Bar Association | Avvo | Google