Child enticement is a catch-all reference for any type of conduct, or the conspiracy to engage in such conduct, constituting a sexual crime against a minor child. Child enticement can be charged under federal and state laws. Who constitutes a “child” will be defined by federal laws or the laws of your specific state.

Child enticement laws describe an offender who uses the mail or some other mode of communication to lure or entice the child to a secluded location for the purpose of committing a criminal sexual act.

The penalties if convicted for an act of child enticement can be quite serious and may require that the offender register as a sex offender. Child enticement is different from the much broader crime of child endangerment (i.e. driving while intoxicated with a child in the car, leaving a child unattended, or failure to report child abuse) which addresses conduct that puts the child mentally and physically at risk.

What are Some Examples of Child Enticement Crimes?

The types of child enticement crimes vary across federal and state laws. Common examples include some of the following activities involving a child:

  • Lewd or lascivious behavior. This type of behavior involves a person who uses the child’s body to arouse or satisfy the person’s sexual desires. A person may also be charged with child sexual abuse for committing a lewd or lascivious behavior with a child.
  • Engaging in prostitution. Soliciting a prostitute for the purpose of sex is a criminal offense usually resulting in a misdemeanor charge. This charge can be enhanced to a felony if there is a minor child involved.
  • Online sexual conduct. If you engage in sexual behavior on a digital platform with a minor, you may be charged with child enticement. An example of this is when a person pretending to be age-appropriate uses a computer to seduce, lure or entice a minor child or someone believed to be a minor child for the purpose of engaging in unlawful sexual activity.
    • It is a popular law enforcement technique to use police officers to pose as minors and conduct chats with potential offenders. Offenders often allege a defense of entrapment, but this is usually not successful since the criminal charges focus on the predisposition of the offender to engage in the conduct underlying the charges.
  • Sexual intercourse. Engaging in sexual intercourse with a minor child is sometimes referred to as statutory rape. Arguing that the child consented or that you were mistaken about their age is not a defense.
  • Pornography. Pornography can fall under child enticement laws if the offender lures a child away and persuades them to engage in sexual conduct. For example, if the offender coerces the  child to allow them to take a nude photo or appear nude on camera, this is considered child pornography.
  • Sex tourism. Sex tourism involves, individually or as part of a group, travelling to another country where prostitution is legal for the specific purpose of engaging in a sexual activity with a minor. Regardless of the age of consent in those countries, it is still a crime in the U.S. and you will be prosecuted for your unlawful conduct.

How is Child Enticement Different from Kidnapping?

Kidnapping is a separate crime from child enticement though they both involve movement of the victim from one place to another. In child enticement scenarios, the child is not physically forced to leave their house to a secluded location. Kidnapping, on the other hand, involves forcing the victim to change locations.

As well, while child enticement typically involves some sexual misconduct, kidnapping does not always include this behavior. For example, a non-custodial parent who uses force or fraud to remove a child from the custodial parent can be charged with kidnapping. Under these facts where there is no sexual misconduct  involved, the non-custodial parent isn’t likely to be charged with child enticement.

Are There Defenses to Child Enticement?

Whether or not you have a defense to your charge of child enticement depends on your state (or federal law, as the case may be). For example, arguing you were mistaken about the child’s age or that the child consented isn’t likely to be successful in these types of cases. However, it always depends on the circumstances of the case, and keep in mind that each case is unique.

More likely, a skilled attorney will attempt to undermine the prosecution’s specific evidence or offer evidence on the offender’s behalf as to why the sentence should be lenient. For example, the attorney may argue that the offender had some substance abuse history that influenced their bad judgement.

Or perhaps they will offer expert testimony that the offender is not actually attracted to children in real life and that they were merely articulating a fantasy. A skilled attorney can help assess these defenses based on the specific facts of each case.

Do I Need a Lawyer If I have been Charged with Child Enticement?

A child enticement charge can have serious legal and reputational impact. It is important to take these charges seriously. Consulting with a local criminal attorney will help you understand how best to respond to these charges.