It should come as no surprise that the state of Florida doesn’t take crimes against minor children lightly, especially sex crimes. As a result, the state will aggressively prosecute unlawful sexual conduct against minors.
This includes online solicitation of a minor. Even if the child doesn’t experience harm or the perpetrator never engages with them, enticement and solicitation are enough for charges to incur.
But what is solicitation of a minor, exactly? In this article, we’ll explain the definition of online solicitation of a minor in Florida and the penalties one can expect to face for this criminal charge.
What Is Online Solicitation of a Minor?
Online child solicitation in Florida involves enticing, luring, seducing, or soliciting a minor to participate in unlawful sexual behavior using one of the following:
- An electronic device (such as a computer, smartphone, or tablet)
- Internet service
- Online service
The communication can take place via the following methods:
- Classified ad websites (like Craigslist)
- Instant messaging
- Personal ad
- Social media
- Text message
Florida’s Laws on Online Solicitation of a Minor
Under Florida Statute 800.04, soliciting a person under 16 years of age to commit a lewd or lascivious act means that the person in question (the solicitor) has already committed lewd or lascivious conduct, even if the act itself hasn’t occurred. Therefore, the act of solicitation alone is a crime.
However, Florida Statute 847.0135 is a more specific law that details solicitation charges related to the following:
- The use of a computer or electronic device to solicit a minor
- Traveling to meet a child after using a computer or electronic device to solicit sexual behavior
Consequences & Penalties for Online Solicitation of a Minor
Laws against internet solicitation in Florida make it clear that there is no such thing as a minor charge when it comes to online solicitation of a child. In fact, a defendant facing a solicitation charge will face a felony offense similar to sexual battery.
F.S. 847.0135 further discusses the penalties for these online solicitation crimes.
It is a third-degree felony to use a computer or electronic device to solicit a minor to engage in sexual behavior. This includes soliciting a parent or guardian of a minor to allow the child to engage in sexual conduct.
Traveling to meet a minor after soliciting them through a computer or electronic device is a second-degree felony. The law does not differentiate between inter- or intra-state travel. It also doesn’t make distinctions for distance traveled or mode of transport used.
Thus, any travel to meet with a minor will result in a second-degree felony charge.
- Third-degree felony conviction: a maximum fine of $5,000
- Second-degree felony conviction: a maximum fine of $10,000
- Third-degree felony conviction: prison sentence of up to five years
- Second-degree felony conviction: prison sentence of up to 15 years plus another 15 years of probation
It’s important to note that if one uses various devices or services to solicit a minor, each one will count as a separate offense. For instance, using a phone and computer to solicit a child will be two counts of solicitation, equating to up to ten years in prison.
Sex Offender Registration
Another consequence of any conviction related to soliciting a child is sex registration. The convicted will have to register on the sex offender registry, likely for the rest of their life. This limits where one can work and live, as well as the professional licensing and certification opportunities available to them.
When a law enforcement officer arrests someone for soliciting a minor in Florida, that person should immediately hire a skilled attorney. During the initial consultation, the Florida sex offense lawyer will review the criminal case and determine the best strategy for moving forward. Below we detail some possible defenses an attorney may use.
Disclaimer: each case is different, so the information below is only for educational purposes and not intended as legal advice. Please consult your attorney.
No Criminal Intent
Suppose the defendant did not intend to engage in any sexual acts. Then their criminal defense lawyer could argue as such, especially if there is a lack of evidence in the case. This is because the jury needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that one is guilty.
However, if the defendant alluded to any sexual activities via an electronic device, this defense would not stand.
Entrapment is when a police officer improperly coerces, encourages, or persuades someone to commit a crime that they otherwise would not have committed. Under Florida Statute 777.201, entrapment is illegal.
Yet, sting operations usually do not fall under the purview of entrapment. While at times, the police can take it too far, and a sting operation becomes entrapment, the law gives significant leeway to these operations.
To prove entrapment, your lawyer has to show you didn’t intend to commit a crime.
Since the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt, the prosecution must have enough evidence to convince the jury as such. If the state cannot produce substantial evidence showing the defendant is guilty of committing the crime, their lawyer will point this out during the pre-trial.
If the defendant has a mental health problem or a history of mental health issues, their attorney could argue they were not in control of their actions during the alleged crime. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will know if an insanity defense is valid in the case. If so, they can request a psychological evaluation.
Additionally, the American Psychological Association considers pedophilia a psychiatric personality disorder. Thus, there is a procedure for determining if one suffers from the condition. Those with a pedophilia diagnosis can use this as part of their criminal defense.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Online solicitation of a minor in Florida is a serious criminal offense that can lead to years behind bars and a lifetime on the sex offender registry list.
If you or someone you know is facing a solicitation charge, get help now by scheduling a free consultation with the law firm of Mike G. We pride ourselves on creating a solid attorney-client relationship so that we can craft the best possible defense for your case.