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The Risks of “Catfishing” and Sex Crimes in North Carolina

By Joel Hancock

With the growth of the Internet and specifically social media, it’s extremely easy to connect with people across the world. However, what’s not as easy is knowing to whom you are actually speaking. “Catfishing,” or an interaction in which someone pretends to be someone else, can be extremely disheartening. But what many people fail to consider is that under certain situations it can also be illegal. 

When someone uses another’s identity, it is very likely that he or she is committing fraud. By establishing a fake profile the “catfisher” could be guilty of defamation, impersonation, and even infringement of intellectual property. Additionally, if the individual who is posing as another initiates any type of sexual activity with a minor, including the solicitation of photos or video, he or she can be charged with a sex crime. 

On the flip side, if an individual is “catfished” by a minor and made to believe that he or she is of age, the target can actually be guilty of sexual crimes for engaging in sexual activity with him or her – regardless of the fact that such activity was prefaced on the belief that the minor was an adult. 

The Age of Consent 

In North Carolina, the age of consent is 16 years. Therefore, it is illegal for an adult (someone age 18 or older) to engage in any sexual activity with a minor (someone below the age of 16) – even if such activity is consensual. 

Sometimes minors want to receive more attention or to act or sound older than they are so he or she will falsely claim to be 16 or older. The problem lies with the fact that not knowing a minor’s true age is not a valid legal defense to a sex crime. 

Additionally, if someone believing that the other person is of age solicits any sexual activity from a catfisher who is underage, he or she can be charged with solicitation of a minor. Again, it doesn’t matter that the individual was misled. 

The severity of the charges is dependent upon what the defendant is accused of, his or her age, and his or her criminal history. 

For example:

  • Statutory rape when the minor is 13, 14, or 15 and the defendant is more than 6 years older, or the rape or sexual offense of a child is considered a Class B1 felony, punishable by up to life in prison without the possibility of parole. 
  • If someone commits statutory rape when the minor is 13, 14, or 15 and the defendant is 4-6 years older, it is considered a Class C felony and is punishable by up to 182 months in prison. 
  • First-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and child molestation are also very serious sex crimes punishable by lengthy prison sentences.  

Attorney Joel Hancock at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Helps Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with a Sex Crime

If you have been charged with a sex crime – especially one involving a minor – it is very serious. A conviction of such a crime can greatly impact your life.  That’s why it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. 

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you fight these charges and obtain the best possible outcome for you. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

About the Author
Joel Hancock is a native of Carteret County, NC. He devotes 100% of his practice to defending those accused of traffic infractions, DWI, misdemeanors, and felonies in Carteret County, NC.