The “Computer Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act.”
The state aggressively prosecutes Soliciting a Child for Unlawful Sex charges in Florida and metes out harsh penalties. But the sophisticated sting operations that law enforcement agencies use to catch sexual predators can run amok. Overzealous lawmen working to keep arrest numbers up for financial reasons sometimes coax suspects with no criminal predisposition.
The Sheriff’s department’s budget gets a boost from forfeited assets and federal grant money, but the results for those drawn into the trap is devastating. The lawmen make sure these are high-profile arrests, circulating mug shots at crowded press conferences. People not convicted of any crime receive a swift and vicious public shaming, with their arrest photos on Facebook and newspaper front pages. And that’s just the beginning.
If you are facing Soliciting a Child for Unlawful Sex charges in Florida, call 407-349-4211 and speak with the Orlando Sex Crimes Defense Attorneys at the Rivas Law firm to discuss your options.
Solicitation of a Child is a Felony Offense in Florida
Any attempt to solicit underage sexual encounters made online, through social media or text messaging, or other electronic means violates Florida Statute 847.0135(3). Solicitation of a minor is a third-degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison, plus probation and a
Traveling to Meet a Minor
Solicitation is one thing, but taking steps after online soliciting activity to meet with a child to engage in sexual behavior incurs more serious charges. Traveling any distance to pursue sexual activities with a child in or out of state violates Florida Statute 847.0135(4).
It’s a second-degree felony with a minimum sentence of 21 months in prison. The maximum is 15 years in prison, plus probation and a $10,000 fine. Defendants also face lifelong registration as a Florida sex offender.
Prosecutors aggressively pursue child sex charges and can pile on the offenses to increase prison time for offenders. For example, if someone used a few different devices in the course of the offense, like going from a desktop computer to a cell phone to a laptop, the use of each device can mean a new count—meaning more years in prison. Prosecutors scrutinize every move a defendant made to see how many charges they can add.
Defense Against Child Sex Crime Charges
An aggressive criminal defense attorney may be able to use several strategies to fight these charges. Often, the attorney’s job is to investigate the investigators. If they caught you in a sting operation, the law might have used deception and persuasion to build their case.
WTSP News in Tampa found “a pattern of exaggerations on arrest reports by law enforcement officers involved in the stings. Some officers claimed men were looking for children online when there was never any evidence to support the statement. But officers would use the claims to pile on additional felony charges [which] allowed law enforcement to seize their property: two repercussions that – even when some of the men are exonerated – typically burden them socially and financially for the rest of their lives.”
In Sarasota a couple of years ago, a 38-year-old man began chatting online with “Amber,” who said she was 18. The two were having a pleasant and engaging online conversation and soon began exchanging text messages. Four days later, after Amber forwarded an appealing (fully clothed) selfie, things got flirty. They starting texting about getting together. They agreed to meet. After their plans were all set, Amber let him know that she was only fourteen.
Was there Predisposition, or was it Entrapment?
This guy’s first instinct was to cancel the meeting. He knew it was wrong and illegal, and he let her know the relationship was over. But she persisted. She cajoled, taunted, and ultimately enticed him to come to meet her in person. He was hesitant but finally gave in. When he pulled into the driveway at the given address, he carried no weapons, drugs, or condoms.
It turns out that “Amber” was a burly detective who slapped the cuffs on the guy and hauled him off to jail. Prosecutors eventually dropped two of three charges, and the court sentenced him to nearly three years in prison – and a lifetime as a registered sex offender.
Lack of Intent to Commit a Crime
An appeals court later threw out the conviction of Amber’s texting companion. The court ruled that law enforcement had taken the lead in suggesting that the defendant pursue a sexual relationship with a minor. The judge said that the detective “coaxed and cajoled” the defendant into agreeing to meet.
Another notable aspect of the case is that the original charges included felony use of a computer to solicit a child to commit a sex act and lewd and lascivious behavior involving a child under 16. It was a classic case of piling-on, prosecutorial overreach. The prosecutor must have known that the use of a computer charge wouldn’t stand. It’s an element of the traveling charge and would have been Double Jeopardy. And no one committed lewd or lascivious behavior – nor was a child under 16 anywhere in sight.
Without an aggressive and experienced criminal defense lawyer to fight the charges, prosecutors may try to tempt a defendant into taking a plea deal. The prosecutor will say, “OK, we’ll drop those other charges – which could land you in prison for 50 years – if you plea to the one charge and serve just a few years.”
A Defense Lawyer who Fights Hard for your Rights
It’s critical to have an aggressive criminal defense lawyer who will fight harder for your rights than the prosecutor will fight to take your rights away. Your attorney can conduct a thorough pretrial investigation to discover any procedural violations by police. Was there probable cause? Were search warrants valid?
There are many ways that an experienced and aggressive criminal defense lawyer can fight these types of charges. A defense lawyer may be able to show that police goaded someone otherwise not inclined to commit the crime into doing so. Suspicious statements and actions may be seen as innocent if looked at in context. There may be questions of intent, identity, or double-jeopardy. A lawyer may bring up psychological or mental health issues.
The important thing is to talk with a lawyer as soon as possible. Naturally, you’ll want the best criminal defense lawyer available. Consider the Orlando Criminal Defense Attorneys at Rivas Law. Call 407-349-4211 to talk to a lawyer and discuss your options.