Online Solicitation of a Minor for Sex Sting Operations in West Palm Beach, Florida
West Palm Beach Online Solicitation of a Minor for Sex Defense Attorneys
Solicitation of a Minor for Sex charges could result in the accused suffering some of the most severe penalties possible in the state of Florida. The punishments may also be increased if the offense occurred within 1,000 feet of a school. The Internet has been used increasingly in child solicitation and other related sex crimes, which is why law enforcement in West Palm Beach has begun conducting Internet sex sting operations.
If you have been accused of sexual solicitation of a minor using the Internet, the computer, or an electronic device, contact Musca Law immediately to understand your legal rights. Musca Law offers free consultations when you call (561) 660-9086 or visit our law office at 524 Datura St Ste 108, West Palm Beach, FL 33401.
Internet Solicitation of a Minor
The Florida legislature passed new laws and punishments for adults who meet with children after a solicitation has occurred. When an adult travels to meet a child with the intent of committing consensual or non-consensual sexual activity, the defendant will face a 2nd-degree felony criminal charge. Punishments for Internet Solicitation of a Minor include up to 15 years in prison and legal monetary fines.
Internet Sting Operations in West Palm Beach
Internet sting operations are common in West Palm Beach, Florida, and can lead to severe consequences. Musca Law knows the tactics law enforcement officers use in child solicitation sting operations, and our attorneys have the experience necessary to defend people facing charges related to stings.
What is an Internet Sex Sting Operation?
Internet sex sting operations, also known as "sex stings," are law enforcement operations in which police impersonate children, group sexual encounters with their alleged relatives under 18 years of age, adults offering threesomes, or adults allegedly looking for recreational or educational sexual arrangements to catch sexual predators looking for illegal sexual encounters with children. These law enforcement operations are carried out on dating websites, social media, internet chatrooms, instant messaging apps, or other online platforms.
One example of child solicitation sting operations was the television show "To Catch a Predator," which ran online and on national television for several years. Each episode showed adults (typically adult men) using internet chatrooms to talk to children. A meetup was soon arranged, and when the suspects arrived at the agreed-upon place and time. The predators were then confronted by the show's host, as well as law enforcement officers. The shows made for good TV but also ruined many lives and led to at least one suicide.
Sting operations are not much different from television show. Law enforcement officers use the Internet to pose as children and engage in conversations with adults. The conversations often progress to a sexual nature and the exchange of explicit videos or photographs. At some point, the adult and "child" will arrange a place and time to meet for the purpose of engaging in sexual acts. Not all Internet child sex solicitation stings involve a planned meeting, but many of these cases do reach this stage. At some point during the solicitation sting operation, the law enforcement officers make their arrests.
Use of Sting Operations in West Palm Beach
Florida law enforcement has created a reputation for using sting operations to arrest adults for online child sex crimes. In November 2019, police officers arrested 17 men in Central Florida as part of an online sting operation. These arrests were highly publicized, especially since one of the men arrested was a former middle school assistant principal.
These law enforcement practices are not confined to a few parts of the state of Florida but happen throughout the state. Our Online Child Solicitation Lawyers know how these sting operations are carried out, and our legal professionals understand how to fight the charges. In a lot of cases, the police detectives involved in Florida Internet sting operations illegally lure people into committing child solicitation of minor crimes the defendants would not otherwise have committed.
If you have been lured into an Internet solicitation sting operation, call our experienced West Palm Beach Internet sting operation defense attorneys. The lawyers at Musca Law will help you understand your rights and can defend your freedom, reputation, and liberties.
Charges and Penalties Associated with West Palm Beach Online Child Solicitation Sting Operations
The are several different charges that can follow an internet sting operation. State Prosecutors will often charge the defendant with several sex crimes depending on the circumstances of the sting and acts that transpired while the defendant was communicating with the undercover officer. Each sex crime will carry different punishments as prescribed by Florida law. In addition to the punishments described below, most sex crimes in Florida will require the convicted offender to register as a sex offender both in Florida and on the National Sex Predator Registry.
Solicitation of a Minor (Lewd and Lascivious Conduct) Charges in West Palm Beach
An individual could be charged with solicitation of minor or lewd and lascivious conduct after an internet sting operation in West Palm Beach. Under Florida Statute § 800.04, lewd or lascivious conduct includes soliciting a minor to engage in a lewd or lascivious act or intentionally touching a minor in a lewd or lascivious way.
This statute does not define what the terms "lewd" and "lascivious" mean, but Florida's jury instructions indicate that the words are interchangeable and mean sensual, lustful, unchaste, or wicked.
Lewd or lascivious conduct with a minor or solicitation of a minor charge are charged as third-degree felonies or second-degree felonies in Florida, according to § 800.04, and depending upon the age of the victim and the age of the defendant. If the defendant is 18 years of age or older, the crime may be charged as a second-degree felony which carries a possible prison sentence of 15 years and a $10,000 fine. If the defendant is under 18 years of age, the crime is usually charged as a third-degree felony which carries a punishment of five years in prison plus a $5,000 fine.
Traveling to Meet a Minor Charges in West Palm Beach
Florida law makes it a crime for an adult to travel any distance and by any means (walking, train, bus, private auto, ETC) to meet a minor for the purpose of engaging in any sexual conduct. This is usually the type of situation involved in Internet child solicitation sting operations, as law enforcement officers try to set up a meeting with the sting targets.
Florida Statute § 847.0135 defines "traveling to meet a minor" like traveling, causing another person to travel, attempting to travel, or attempting to cause another person to travel to meet a child to engage in a sexual act. Traveling follows the acts of enticing, soliciting, luring, or seducing a minor to engage in sexual behavior by using online chat rooms, dating apps, computer service, internet service, bulletin service, or any electronic device.
Florida law does not require that a "real" child be involved for a crime to be committed. Florida Statute Section 847.0135 states that it is a crime when an individual believes the person they are traveling to meet is a child. It is also not necessary that any unlawful sexual acts take place. This is why people can be arrested in Florida during sex solicitation sting operations when the offender never actually talked with a minor or have never engaged in any sexual acts with a minor.
"Traveling to Meet a Minor" in Florida is charged as a second-degree felony, which is punished with up to 15 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
Solicitation of a Minor Using a Computer or Electronic Device Charges in West Palm Beach
Under Florida Statute § 847.0135, an individual may not use an internet service, a bulletin service, an electronic device with storage and transmission capabilities, or a computer service to lure, solicit, entice, or seduce a child to engage in sexual conduct. The law also includes attempts to do the same.
Solicitation of a minor through an internet service or computer is usually charged as a third-degree felony in Florida, and that carries a potential punishment of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Lewd and Lascivious Battery Charges in West Palm Beach
Florida Section 800.04 states that an individual commits lewd and lascivious battery when they engage in a sexual act with a child between the ages of 12 and 15 or forces entices, or encourages a child younger than 16 to engage in sexual acts, including prostitution, sadomasochistic abuse, or bestiality.
Lewd and lascivious battery is usually charged as a second-degree felony in Florida and punished by up to 15 years in prison plus a $10,000 fine. However, if a defendant has any of the following conviction on their record for any of the following, the new criminal charges will be elevated to a first-degree felony:
- Sexual battery
- Kidnapping of a minor involving sexual battery
- False imprisonment of a minor involving sexual battery
- Computer pornography
- Solicitation of a minor using a computer service or device
- Traveling to meet a minor
- Lewd or lascivious offenses involving elderly or disabled persons
- Lewd or lascivious offenses involving persons younger than 16
A first-degree felony in West Palm Beach and is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000, and a prison sentence of up to 30 years.
Child Pornography Charges in West Palm Beach
Additional sex crimes that could follow an online child sex solicitation sting operation in Florida could include child pornography. The following are types of child pornography crimes:
- Distributing Child Pornography – It is against the law in Florida to knowingly advertise, sell, distribute, or disburse of images or videos of kids that are pornographic situations. Distributing child pornography is charged as a second-degree felony which includes a prison sentence up to 15 years plus a monetary fine up to $10,000.
- Manufacturing Child Pornography– Involves the creation of explicit videos or photos of children engaging in a pornographic nature. Manufacturing child pornography may also include "soliciting children for the purpose of creating pornographic material." This crime can be is usually charged as a second-degree felony, which is punished with a prison sentence up to 15 years and a legal fine of up to $10,000.
- Possession of Child Pornography – Involves possession of one or more videos or images of children that are pornographic in nature. The crime is usually be charged as a third-degree felony in Florida, and is punished with a prison sentence up to five years and a fine up to $5,000.
- Exposing a minor to Pornography – Exposing a Minor to Pornography is a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida, and includes a prison sentence of up to one year plus a fine up to $1,000.
Child pornography criminal charges often result from Internet child solicitation sting operation if the sting target solicits the undercover officer to create child pornography or if the law enforcement officer discovers any other situations involving child pornography during the sting operation.
Criminal Charges Involving Parents, Guardians, and Custodians in West Palm Beach
Florida Section 847.0135 involves the solicitation of parents, guardians, and custodians of minor children. In Florida, it is a crime to solicit or attempt to solicit a minor's parent, guardian, or custodian into giving consent for the minor to engage in any sexual act. This statute also explains that it is enough for the defendant to believe that the person is the parent, guardian, or custodian of a minor child.
Some Internet child solicitation sting operations, working within these subsections of Florida criminal law, involve law enforcement officers posing as guardians, parents, or custodians and talking to adults online about allowing their minor kids to engage in sexual acts. These sting operations are not as common as those in which an officer poses as a minor, but these operations do take place and do lead to criminal charges. This crime is charged as a third-degree felony or a second-degree felony, depending on the circumstances involved.
Legal Defenses to Criminal Charges Stemming from an Internet Child Solicitation Sex Sting Operation in Florida
Several legal defenses are available in online child sex sting operation cases, the most notable defense of which is entrapment by law enforcement. These sex sting operations are very controversial since the approach has a propensity to lure people into committing crimes that they would never have committed but for the sting. Other legal defenses might include insufficient evidence, lack of intent, or illegal search and seizure.
Entrapment Defense in West Palm Beach Child Solicitation Cases
Entrapment occurs when law enforcement induces an individual to commit a criminal offense the person would not have otherwise committed. The entrapment defense has evolved primarily through case law and past criminal trials. Two competing texts exist that determine whether or not entrapment has occurred in a case: Subjective and Objective. The Subjective Test tries to determine the defendant's state of mind. Entrapment will exist if the defendant had no "predisposition" to commit the criminal offense. The Objective Test examines the government's conduct in the case. Entrapment will exist if the actions of law enforcement could induce any ordinary and law-abiding citizen to commit the crime.
Illegal Search and Seizure Defense in West Palm Beach Child Solicitation Cases
Under the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment, citizens are protected from police officers engaging in unlawful searches or seizures. If law enforcement officers carried out a search or seizure without obtaining a search warrant, the defendant may move to exclude the seized evidence due to a violation of the defendant's constitutional rights.
Speak with Our Best West Palm Beach Online Solicitation of a Minor Defense Attorneys Today
If you or a member of your family has been accused of solicitation using the Internet, you must speak with our best Solicitation of a Minor Defense Attorney in West Palm Beach, Florida, as quickly as possible. Sex crimes are harshly prosecuted, but all sex crimes involving children are aggressively prosecuted and come with penalties that last a lifetime. Keep your freedom, legal rights, and reputation intact with the assistance of our West Palm Beach child solicitation defense lawyers. We will work tirelessly on your behalf to achieve a positive outcome. Musca Law offers free consultations when you call (561) 660-9086 or visit our law office at 524 Datura St Ste 108, West Palm Beach, FL 33401.
524 Datura St Ste 108
West Palm Beach, FL 33401
Phone: (561) 660-9086
Hours: Open, Open 24/7