The state's highest criminal court has struck down a Texas law that bans sexually explicit Internet communications between an adult and minor.
The Court of Criminal Appeals unanimously determined that the 2005 law violates free speech protections. The Austin American-Statesman reports the law was intended to target "grooming," in which predators befriend children online before making explicit comments.
The third-degree felony was punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
A companion law criminalizing the sexual solicitation of minors was not affected by Wednesday's ruling.
The court noted that lawyers for the state argued that "perverts will be free to bombard our children with salacious emails and text messages." But it said children already are protected by other laws banning obscenity, harassment and other conduct.
The Court of Criminal Appeals concluded that children in Texas are protected by other laws that have passed constitutional scrutiny, including statutes banning solicitation, obscenity, harassment and the distribution of materials harmful to minors.
In its ruling, the court dismissed an indictment against a Harris County man whose trial was delayed while he challenged the law.