Solicitation of a Minor
Prosecutors aggressively pursue alleged crimes against children, especially those of a sexual nature, such as solicitation of a minor. It’s illegal to use an online or internet service, or electronic device to encourage a minor to engage in unlawful sexual behavior and conviction of this crime carries harsh penalties.
But experienced Sarasota sex crimes lawyer, Erika Valcarcel, understands that police can make mistakes resulting in charges that shouldn’t have been brought. Because she’s been a prosecutor, she uses this insight to effectively defend solicitation of minor charges.
Contact Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A. today at (941) 363-7900 or with our online form for a free consultation. Remember, don’t speak to authorities until you’ve spoken to Attorney Valcarcel.
Solicitation of a Minor in Florida Law
Under Florida law, if someone solicits a person under age 16 to commit a lewd or lascivious act, then “lewd or lascivious conduct” has been committed. The statute doesn’t define those terms but in jury instructions “lascivious” means something unchaste, wicked, lustful, sensual, or licentious.
Understand that a lewd and lascivious act doesn’t have to occur. All that matters for charges to be filed is if the defendant solicited the act. In addition, the targeted victim doesn’t have to be a minor – only that the defendant believed the solicitation was directed at someone under 16. That is why “sting” operations where authorities pose as minors are typically lawful.
Kinds of Soliciting Charges
Florida has a specific statute, § 847.0135, to charge solicitation that involves use of a computer or electronic device or traveling to meet a minor for illicit purposes. These charges are felonies.
Use of a Computer or Electronic Device
- You can face a third-degree felony for knowingly using a computer or internet service, bulletin service, or another electronic device to solicit or attempt to solicit someone under 16 to engage in a sex act.
- Electronic devices include cell phones and tablets, and solicitation can happen over text messaging, chatrooms, personal ads, social media, instant messaging, and classified ad websites.
- Also, a third-degree felony in Florida is soliciting or attempting to solicit a parent or guardian of a child to allow the child to engage in a sexual act.
Traveling to Meet a Minor
- If you travel any distance to meet a child (or a person believed to be a child) after using a computer or electronic device to solicit sexual conduct, you can be charged with a second-degree felony.
- The statute covers all kinds of transportation and doesn’t matter if the travel is inter- or intra- state.
Florida Penalties for Solicitation of a Minor
Solicitation of a minor charges are serious, and conviction can result in several years in prison and costly fines. Collateral damages to your reputation, job prospects, and relationships are also devastating. If you are under investigation for solicitation of a minor charges or have already been charged, you need a sexual crimes attorney right away.
Generally, lewd and lascivious conduct and solicitation of a minor are second- or third-degree felonies in the Florida. The felony classification will depend on the specific facts of your case. Conviction of second-degree felonies in Florida can result in up to 15 years in prison, another 15 years of probation, and a $10,000 fine. For defendants who are under 18, the charge will be a third-degree felony and if convicted it is punishable of up to five years in prison and a maximum $5,000 fine.
Prosecutors will stack offenses to charge more counts. What this means is that if you are accused of using different devices or services to commit solicitation of a minor, each will count as a separate offense. So, if police allege you used your cell phone, a tablet, and a laptop to solicit a minor, you’d face three counts and could end up on conviction being sent to prison for up to 45 years.
Using a computer or electronic device and traveling to commit solicitation of a minor can result in a sentence of at least 21 months in prison. That penalty could be increased if you have previous convictions.
Lifelong consequences of conviction for solicitation of a minor charges include sex registration – which limits where you can live and work. A criminal record will hinder employment opportunities and may prohibit professional licensing and certification or entry to the military.
Soliciting a Minor Defenses and Non-defenses
Attorney Valcarcel knows sex crimes law and as a former prosecutor, how the state pursues these cases. She can use her experience to evaluate the circumstances of your charges and find the best defenses. Generally, these defenses may be available:
- No Criminal Intent
The statute requires that you “knowingly” committed the offense. If we can show you didn’t intend to do it, that is a valid defense.
- Insufficient Evidence
Because the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt is on the prosecution, we may be able to show that there is insufficient evidence for conviction.
- Illegal Search and Seizure
You have a right under the U.S. Constitution to be free of illegal search and seizure. If authorities violated this right, we will work to have any evidence seized excluded.
- Mental Issues
Should there be a reason to believe you weren’t responsible for your actions due to mental defect, we can secure expert exams and subsequent testimony to establish that defense.
Sting operations aren’t entrapment per se, but sometimes law enforcement can go too far with techniques and could commit entrapment. We would work to show that you were induced to commit the crime you weren’t predisposed to do.
Additional procedural defenses include motions to dismiss based on the expiration of the statute of limitations or violation of your speedy trial rights. The availability of these, again, depends on the facts of your case.
What Attorney Valcarcel can’t argue as a defense to solicitation charges includes:
- Ignorance – Florida law expressly prohibits arguing ignorance of age. Covered under this prohibition is that age never came up, assumptions of age, misrepresentation by the minor of age, or any other circumstances leading to a belief by the defendant the minor was of age.
- Consent or Child’s Chastity – The solicitation statute also forbids presenting evidence of the child’s sexual history or saying the minor consented. Minors cannot legally consent to engaging in any sexual conduct.
Contact a Sarasota Solicitation of a Minor Lawyer
With the advent of the internet, solicitation of a minor is a growing problem that authorities are focused on combatting. Because law enforcement is committed to stopping this type of activity, they could be overzealous, and you might end up wrongly charged. If that happens, the life you’ve known hangs in the balance. You need Attorney Valcarcel to provide a thorough and vigorous defense.
Convictions for a Florida sex crimes like solicitation of a minor not only mean possible incarceration, fines, probation, and sex registry requirements, but also damages your reputation, hurts your job prospects, and can even undermine your familial and friend relationships.
The sooner you consult with Attorney Valcarcel about your circumstances, the better. If you know you’re under pre-file investigation, or as soon as you are charged, make sure to seek counsel. The only way to protect your rights is to be represented.
With her experience in criminal court and her dedication to protecting the rights of defendants, Attorney Valcarcel believes everyone deserves due process under the law. She works hard to find legal arguments and evidence that will lead to your charges being reduced or dismissed.
Call today at (941) 363-7900 to schedule your free consultation.