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Soliciting a Minor for Unlawful Sex

in Florida

This law seeks to protect minors from adults who troll online chat forums for minors, seeking to engage in sexual activities or lewd conduct with them/

Florida Statute §847.0135(3) states that a person may be charged with Soliciting a minor for unlawful sex if they utilize an Internet service, electronic device, or online service for enticing, luring, soliciting, or seducing the minor to start engaging with them in illegal sexual relations.

Electronic Devices

In 2007, the State Legislature of Florida included electronic devices that are capable of transmission or data storage as one of the mediums that could be used for soliciting children for illegal sexual conduct. Although it does include modern smartphones under its ambit, it is yet to be known whether it also includes generic cell phones that do not have sophisticated functions or features.

Undercover Law Enforcement Techniques

It is important to note that this charge remains valid even if it was a law enforcement officer who was posing as the child in this case. Common undercover law enforcement techniques are –

An officer engages in bait-and-switch conversations
An officer poses either as the father/mother of a minor child or as the child itself.
An officer poses either as the father/mother of a minor child or as the child itself.

It's a tactic that has been wildly popularized by To Catch A Predator, which is a Dateline NBC series hosted by Chris Hansen. It involves law enforcement officers masquerading as minor children or as their parents on websites like Craigslist, Yahoo, Facebook, and AOL.

It is important to note that even if it was an undercover law enforcement official or undercover operative who was responsible for detecting and investigating this crime, it isn't a valid defense against this charge.

An officer engages in bait-and-switch conversations

This technique involves undercover police officers proposing legal sexual relations. For instance, it could be in the form of a divorced mother who is looking to have sexual relations with another adult. However, this agent turns the conversation away from legal sexual relations to illegal sexual relations, like the minor child of the mother (whose age is often given to be 14 years)

This offense is a Felony of the Second Degree in Florida. The court may impose any of these following penalties in any combination:
Fine not exceeding $10000
Probation Period not exceeding 15 years
Imprisonment sentence not exceeding 15 years

Multiple Criminal Charges for A Single Episode

Every usage of an electronic device, Internet service, online service, or computer may be counted and charged separately as a unique criminal offense, meaning that if you utilize your computer on 4 separate occasions for discussing having illegal sex with a minor, you will be booked with 4 separate counts under this law.

Applicable Specific Defenses

Entrapment

This happens when government agents induce people to commit crimes that they would not have otherwise done, had they not been encouraged to commit the crime.

In many prosecutions where ‘Bait and Switch' techniques are used for charging defendants with this crime, the law enforcement agent's inducement isn't a matter for concern. It is the defendant's predisposition that matters the most.

In order to determine whether the defendant has the predisposition to commit such crimes, these following factors must be examined to see whether this defense can be argued effectively:

The sexual interests expressed by the defendant.
Instances where the defendant shows marked reluctance to commit this illegal act.
Instances where the law enforcement officers pressurize the defendant to commit this illegal act.
Who was responsible for discussing the illegal sexual acts first. 

Lack of Enticement, Luring, Solicitation, or Seduction

To be charged with this crime, the prosecution has to prove conclusively that the defendant had seduced, solicited, lured, or enticed the person posing as a minor or the minor to have illegal sexual relations with them.

Every word mentioned here has a separate legal meaning. If it is proven that the defendant didn't engage in any acts that fall under the terms enticement, luring, soliciting, or seduction, the charges may be dropped.

In cases where a Bait and Switch technique was used, this defense happens to be the most viable course of action in case the undercover officers were directing the entire chat where all the defendant did was just acquiesce to these proposals.

Contact Criminal Defense Lawyer Larry Avallone

If you've been charged or arrested in the Daytona Beach area, contact Larry Avallone, who is an expert Criminal Defense Lawyer in Volusia County. My initial consultation is free. I am ready to provide legal advice regarding the next steps of your case.

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