On May 20, 2014, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals upheld Ronald Arganbright’s conviction for violating a state law banning solicitation of minors via electronic means. Arganbright admitted to having a sexual relationship with a minor and facilitating it using his telephone and text messages. On appeal, he claimed his electronic communications occurred only after the victim had turned 16, which is Oklahoma’s age of consent. This raised an interesting question for the court as to whether the statute applies where the sexual relationship itself would have been legal.
The statute at issue specifically bans this type of communication when directed at “minors”. Arganbright argued the law could not be used against him because the victim was able to consent to sexual activity. In his view, the sexual conduct was legal under the law; therefore his conviction for soliciting her electronically violated his due process rights. The court disagreed, and held the state still maintains a compelling interest to address the type of conduct in which Arganbright engaged.
The court focused on the difference between Oklahoma’s “age of majority” and the “age of consent”. While the girl in question was over the age of consent of 16, she was still below the age of majority, which the state defines as 18. This made her a “minor” when Arganbright sent the text messages. The court held the state’s interest in protecting minors, even when viewed narrowly, justifies the application of the law to Arganbright’s case. The case was reported as Arganbright vs. State, 2014 OK CR 5.