Child Solicitation Charges, Laws, and Penalties in Florida
Being convicted of soliciting a child is associated with serious consequences in the state of Florida. Such repercussions include prison time, monetary fines, and the being included on the sex offender registration even once the individual has completed his or her sentence. Being included on the sex offender registry means that the public will have access to that information, and the individual will be labeled as a sex offender, a designation that is associated with a social stigma that can last a lifetime.
There are numerous sections of the law that apply to the crime of soliciting of a child for the purpose of sexual conduct, each of which has different factors and possible defenses. Specifically, one way to defend against this charge for one part of the law may be an unavailable defense if the offender is charged pursuant to a different specified part of the statute.
Electronic solicitation charges are often filed when an officer of the law or other person disguises himself or herself as a minor in an effort to lure suspects into engaging in sexual solicitations. The fact that the actual individual on the opposite end of the communication is a law enforcement officer and not a minor will not be an adequate defense to this allegation. Keep in mind that entrapment defenses are usually ineffective in challenging one’s charges in this regard.
If an individual is charged pursuant to a separate section of the applicable law, the state must establish that he or she actually solicited a minor. In this view, those facing a solicitation of a child charge will benefit from the advocacy of a seasoned Florida sex crime defense attorney. The lawyers at Musca Law are ready to aid you in understanding the rubric of laws pertaining to the solicitation of a child for a sexual purpose, and to advocate for your rights and to present you with the best defense options. Don’t wait: contact Musca Law today at (888) 484-5057.
The Definition of Child Solicitation Crimes in Florida
There are numerous sections of state law that are associated with child solicitation for sexual purposes. Under Florida Statutes Section 847.0153(3)(a), it is against the law to use a smartphone, computer, or another electronic device to solicit, entice, or seduce children (or an individual that the offender believes is a child) to engage in an illegal sexual act, or to attempt to engage in sexual conduct that is illegal.
Under Florida law, a “child” is defined as a person who is less than eighteen years of age. Even if the offender resides in a location where there is a lower age of consent, he or she will be charged under this statutory section if he or she engages in soliciting a child. This extends to individuals residing in foreign countries as well. In cases where the “child” is an adult playing the role of a child or is an undercover police officer, the offender will still face a conviction for this criminal violation. Each use of a smartphone or computer to solicit a child constitutes its own offense.
Pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 800.04(6)(a)2, the act of soliciting an individual below the age of sixteen to engage in a lascivious or lewd act is against the law. Under the law, the solicitation of the sexual act is itself a criminal violation. An individual need not be utilizing an electronic device such as a smartphone or computer in order to face charges for soliciting a child under this section of the law.
Under Florida Statutes Section 794.011(8)(a), an individual who has custodial or familial authority of a child may also face solicitation of a child charges.
Florida Child Solicitation Defenses
There are several defenses that are available if a person is facing charges for alleged child solicitation. These are as follows:
Entrapment is an available defense, however, it is very difficult to succeed using this as a defense. The only way that an entrapment defense can be raised is if law enforcement induced an individual to commit a crime to which he or she was not predisposed. Notwithstanding, the prosecuting attorneys will challenge this defense by using evidence to suggest that the offender was predisposed to committing the crime. Yet, if there is evidence that law enforcement was persistent in suggesting prohibited sexual conduct and/or the offender was hesitant to engage in the same, it is quite possible for the entrapment defense can be successfully raised.
The state also must establish that the offender solicited a “child.” Specifically, if the illegal activity came entirely from another individual rather than the offender, this can be used as a viable defense to charges for the solicitation of a child.
Keep in mind that the prosecutor must also prove that it was the alleged offender who committed the act of solicitation. For instance, if the accused’s phone had been stolen or if he or she resides in a residence where other people have access to his or her computer, then it is reasonable to argue that another individual sent the illegal messages.
If an individual is facing charges for soliciting a child younger than sixteen years of age to commit a lascivious or lewd act pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 800.04(6)(a)2, then defending on the grounds that the individual who was the subject of the solicitation was not a child, but an adult, such a police officer or other “of age” individual. However, this is not a viable defense to charges resulting from electronically soliciting a child pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 847.0135(3)(a).
If an individual is charged with the electronic solicitation of a child under Florida Statutes Section 847.0135(3)(a), the prosecutor must establish that the applicable communication was used in furtherance of the solicitation. However, if the solicitation was carried out through the use of a landline, the accused should not face a conviction under this charge. Notwithstanding, a person can still be convicted of solicitation of a minor below sixteen years of age to engage in a lascivious or lewd act pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 800.04(a)(20).
Punishment for Soliciting a Child Florida
In the event that a person is convicted of electronically soliciting a child pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 847.0135(3)(a), they will be deemed to have committed a felony in the third-degree. The crime will be elevated to a second-degree felony when the offender has misrepresented his or her own age to the victim while engaging in the crime.
If the alleged offender was over the age of eighteen at the time of the crime, and the victim was under the age of sixteen when the offender solicited the child to commit a lascivious or lewd act pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 800.04(6)(a)2, the crime will be considered a second-degree felony. If the offender is under the age of eighteen, it qualifies as a third-degree felony.
In cases where the child solicited is under the authority or custody of the offender, then pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 794.011(8), the crime will be deemed a felony in the third degree.
If an individual is convicted of a third-degree felony, he or she will face the following repercussions:
- A maximum of a five-year prison term
- A maximum monetary fine of $5,000
If an individual is convicted of a second-degree felony, he or she will face the following repercussions:
- A maximum of fifteen years in jail
- A maximum monetary fine of $10,000
Once the offender is released from jail, his or her inclusion on the sex offender registry is mandatory. Everyone has access to the information published on the Florida Sex Offender Registry, meaning anyone who wishes to may search and find these convicts and information regarding their crime. Sex crimes come with all of these consequences, which are in addition to those faced by every other category of felon. Like other felons, these individuals will face a lifelong prohibition on firearm possession that will be applicable throughout the United States.