Solicitation for Sexual Conduct with a Child Over a Computer - Florida Statute 847.0135(3)

internet and computer crimes

Dateline NBC’s show called “To Catch a Predator” has become very popular over the years where undercover police officers pose as children in internet chatrooms to lure in individuals into houses where they are confronted by the TV host and arrested. This happens on TV and also in real life here in Florida.

Under Florida Statute 847.0135(3)(b), it is illegal to intentionally lure, solicit, seduce, or entice a child to engage in sexual conduct over a computer. It is also illegal to solicit a parent, guardian, or custodian to allow the child to engage in sexual conduct.

The solicitation can be done over the internet, a smart phone, an Ipad, a tablet, a laptop, etc. The computer basically just needs to be able to send messages.

There are two crimes listed in this sub-section: paragraph (a) makes soliciting a child for sexual conduct a crime and paragraph (b) makes it a crime to solicit the parent, guardian, or custodian to allow sexual conduct with the child.

Florida Statute 847.0135(3)(a)- Soliciting a Child for Sexual Conduct Over a Computer

This situation normally happens when a police officer poses as a child and starts communicating with the defendant. Either party could start the conversation in a chatroom, instant messaging service (Facebook, AIM, Google Chat, etc.), or forum. At some point during the conversation, sex is brought up and things go from there.

What the State Prosecutor Has to Prove to Convict a Defendant

The state prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

(1) The defendant knowingly used a computer with internet or a phone capable of sending messages to contact the child;

(2) The child was a child or a person believed by the defendant to be a child;

(3) During that contact, the defendant seduced, solicited, lured, enticed, attempted to seduce solicit, lure, entice the child to engage in any illegal act under chapter 794, 800, 827, or other unlawful sexual conduct with a child or with a person believed by the defendant to be a child.

Chapter 794 deals with sexual battery, Chapter 800 deals with lewdness or indecent exposure, and Chapter 827 deals with child abuse.

Florida Statute 847.0135(3)(b) -Soliciting a Parent, Guardian, or Custodian to Allow Sexual Conduct with the Child

This situation starts out very similarly to the first situation but the police sting is slightly different. Here is a typical scenario; an undercover police officer posts an ad on Craigslist or some type of forum as a mother or aunt. The defendant contacts the mother or aunt and eventually the mother/aunt asks the defendant to be some type of “sexual mentor” to the child. The defendant and the mother/aunt meet and the defendant is arrested. See Mizner v. State.

What the State Prosecutor Has to Prove to Convict a Defendant

The state prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

(1) The defendant knowingly used the internet or a cell phone capable of sending messages to contact a person believed to be a parent, guardian, or custodian of the child; and

(2) During that contact, the defendant seduced, solicited, lured, enticed, attempted to seduce solicit, lure, entice a parent, guardian, or custodian of the child to consent to the participation of the child to engage in any illegal act under chapter 794, 800, 827, or other unlawful sexual conduct.

Chapter 794 deals with sexual battery, Chapter 800 deals with lewdness or indecent exposure, and Chapter 827 deals with child abuse.

Multiple Charges from One Planned Encounter

Each time that a defendant commits this crime over the computer, the defendant can be charged with this crime. For example, if you solicited one day, and then a couple days later finalized your meeting, you could be charged with two commissions of this crime.

Defenses

It does not matter that the undercover police officer was over 18. The defendant can commit this crime on someone over 18 as long as the defendant believes he is communicating with a child.

Depending on the facts, one defense is that the defendant did not lure, solicit, entice, or seduce the undercover police officer, but the officer was really controlling the conversation and the defendant was acquiescing. Have you ever been around a very strong willed person who seemed to “wrangle” you into doing something by ramrodding the conversation their way? An overzealous undercover police officer could potentially have “hijacked” the conversation to talk about sexual conduct.

Punishment

Anyone who commits either of these crimes commits a third-degree felony which is punishable up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. These crimes are ranked as level 7 under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code.

If the defendant misrepresents his age while committing this crime, the crime is punished as a second-degree felony which is punishable up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Other Consequences

A person convicted of this crime will be designated a sexual offender and will be required to report with law enforcement regularly. All sexual offenders are listed on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s website and can be viewed by the public.

Jobs will be harder to get because this crime cannot be expunged. The crime will be on your record for life.

Contact the Law Office of Roger P. Foley, P.A.

A conviction under this statute is serious and will have lifelong consequences. Contact our law offices today to talk to our West Palm Beach Internet Child Solicitation Lawyers. It is important that we here your version of the story so we can carefully craft a defense to your case. These cases are quite common and there are defenses. Do not give up, contact our office so we can discuss your case and formulate a strategy to acquire the best result possible.

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