Have you been contacted by the police or arrested and accused of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes (CMIP)?
If so, you need to find the right representation as soon as possible. CMIP charges can carry felony sentences in the state of Washington, and prosecutors often aggressively pursue them.
Despite this, many people accused of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes don’t understand the severity of the crime and its penalties.
In this article, we break down CMIP’s definition, charges, defenses, and what to do if you’ve been charged.
What is Communication with a Minor for Immoral Purposes?
The law makes face-to-face, telephone, written, or electronic communication of a sexual nature between an adult and a minor illegal.
For clarification, there are a few terms we need to define.
For purposes of this offense, ‘minor’ technically means any person under the age of 18. That said, the legal age of consent in Washington is 16, and there is a defense to this offense where you would not be convicted if you reasonably believed the alleged victim was at least 16 years old.
However, it is important to note that if you are in possession of nude photos/videos of someone under 18 years old, you can also be charged with the felony sex crime of possession of depictions of a minor engaged in sexual explicit conduct, even if that person is over 16 years old.
In multiple cases seen by Washington state’s Court of Appeals, citizens charged with CMIP have argued that ‘immoral purposes’ is an undefined term, and, therefore, the law is unenforceable.
However, the Washington State Court of Appeals ruled on multiple occasions, including in The State of Washington v. Pietrzak, The State of Washington v. Aljutily, and The State of Washington v. McNallie, that ‘immoral purposes’ does not need a ‘narrow’ definition.
In The State of Washington v. Hosier, ‘immoral purposes’ was defined as ‘the predatory purpose of promoting the exposure of children to and involvement in sexual misconduct.’ However, it was made clear the definition can change depending on the circumstances.
This flexibility means judges can widely interpret the term. Anything from obscene language, sexual emojis, or sexually related images can bring CMIP charges.
Most of the time, CMIP charges come with other indictments in relation to the sexual exploitation of a minor Under the Revised Code of Washington Chapter 9.68A or a number of other sexual offenses. In many cases, they are even used as a plea bargain option for defendants with more serious sexual charges to avoid jail time.
There are a multitude of factors that can influence a judge to rule one way or another. A well-versed criminal defense attorney can help you navigate the legal jargon and technicalities.
So, what should you take from this?
If a person is under 18 in the state of Washington, you should not speak with them about anything sexual, through any communication method, it’s that simple.
Police Sting Operations
You don’t have to communicate with an actual minor to be charged with CMIP in Washington state.
The law states that communicating with a minor or someone you believe to be a minor can lead to CMIP charges. This opens up Washington state residents to police sting operations.
Police will pretend to be a minor and solicit sexual conversations in an attempt to find sex criminals online, which have mixed results. In Washington State, these stings are often spearheaded by the Washington State Patrol’s Missing and Exploited Children Task Force (MECTF), and have been dubbed “Operation Net Nanny.” An arrest in one of these operations will often lead to additional charges as well.
Classes of CMIP Charges
If you are convicted of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes, you can either be charged with a gross misdemeanor or a class C felony.
For gross misdemeanor CMIP charges, under the Revised Code of Washington Section 9.92.020, you can face a maximum of 364 days in jail and/or receive a fine of no more than $5,000.
Class C felonies in Washington state are punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of no more than $10,000.
For your CMIP charges to be considered a class C felony, you must have either:
- Previously convicted of a felony sex offense in any state.
- Communicated with a minor via electronic communication.
‘Electronic communication’ includes text messaging, email, social media contact, and any other form of electronic or online communication under the Revised Code of Washington Section 9.61.260.
The distinction between a first offense felony and misdemeanor CMIP charge is somewhat counterintuitive in that you could communicate immorally with a minor in person and only be facing a misdemeanor, whereas if you do it via text, you are facing a felony.
Regarding registration as a sex offender, if you are convicted of CMIP as either a felony or misdemeanor, you would be required to register as a sex offender in Washington State for 10 years. That said, if it is a misdemeanor and the sentence is deferred, you can get out of registration after two years.
Defenses Against CMIP Charges
Under the Revised Code of Washington 9A.44.030, there are multiple defenses that your legal team can argue in court against CMIP charges.
For example, you might argue that the communication was not for immoral purposes.
Or you could argue that the person claimed to be at least 16 and you made a good faith attempt to find their true age by reviewing documentation.
In a sting operation, the defense is often that you really didn’t believe the person you where communicating with was a real minor and/or you were simply roleplaying.
Keep reading to find a criminal defense attorney that can aptly defend your case.
What to do if you’ve been charged with CMIP?
If you’ve been accused of communication with a minor for immoral purposes in Washington state, it’s best to decline to answer questions or give a statement until you can speak with a criminal defense attorney.
The state of Washington aggressively pursues charges for sex crimes, and, in particular, sex crimes that relate to minors. So don’t wait until you’ve been formally charged with a crime to contact a criminal defense attorney. If you are under investigation for a crime, now is the time to reach out to an attorney.
Every American has the right to their day in court, and a robust legal defense. The team at Will & Will has the right experience to provide you with the defense you deserve in serious cases. Contact the team at Will & Will today for more information.