Using a Computer to Solicitate Sex with a Minor
Computer sex crimes are on the rise in Florida. Society has taken a strong stance against those who commit crimes against children or those under the age of 18 years old. This societal stance of “lock them up and throw away the key” is especially true when men try to engage with minors for sex. We have all watched the television show To Catch a Predator. We understand how cunning and convincing some people are when trying to engage with children and those under the age of 18 years old for sex. But what about when an adult is chatting on the computer with another adult and the second adult is the parent of a child, or at least seems to be, who wants to trade money for sex with their child? Is this criminal? To answer this question we must look at FL Gen. Stat. 847.0135.
Remember that Florida Statute 847.0135(3) (a) and (4)(a) states in a pertinent part that: “the person charged, the defendant, must be traveling to meet a minor for an unlawful sexual act and the solicitation of the minor must be through the use of a computer.” There is no language in the Statute about who the third party is or is not. Meaning it does not matter that the third party, more than likely, is an undercover police officer. The third party may be the actually parent or an undercover law enforcement officer posing as the mother of the child who will be engaging in the unlawful sexual activity for money. Many people, including lawyers, wrongly believe that because the third party, the undercover law enforcement officer or parent, is of lawful age, then the crime of soliciting a child for unlawful sexual acts is not committed because they argue that: “I never even spoke to a child.” On its face, the argument sounds well grounded. What the defendant or accused is actually arguing is that they did not commit the “act” of directly contacting the child, which is required under the plain meaning of the statute.
This argument of not actually contacting the child, will likely be put forth in a motion to dismiss or a C-4 motion: that the accused did commit the act because they did not have “contact” with the minor. This type of motion will be without question denied, by the trial courts! Hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer like Andrew D. Stine, if you are accused of a computer sex crime with a child, is the first step in being successful and not making the losing arguments like Mr. Stine has witnessed time and again in the Florida Courtrooms.
The argument put forth above, by many people including lawyers, is a loser because of two bodies of law codified and in Florida law. First, Florida has a theory of law known as the “principal theory.”. The Principal Theory of Law holds that a defendant is a principal and must be treated as if he or she has done all the things the other (s) has done in the concert of a crime. So, in the above fact pattern the third party parent was on a computer, was communicating about sex with a child and the defendant agreed to the actions. Hence, under the principal theory the defendant stepped into the shoes of the third party actor for the elements of the crime.
Another theory of Law in Florida that deals with this issue of traveling to meet a minor for an unlawful sexual act and the solicitation of the minor through the use of a computer is in the answer of how Florida addresses the theory of “plain meaning.” Plain Meaning Theory gives rise to the idea that when laws are passed, the plain meaning of the words contained within the Statute must be applied to each and every word in the Statute. Look at how this applicable Statute is written. Did the defendant communicate with a minor? The answer to that question is no, but I refer you back to Florida’s body of law on the Principal Theory and the answer by the courts is in the affirmative. Was a computer used? Yes! Was a sexual acted going to be committed? Yes! Did the defendant travel to commit the sex act? Yes. Therefore, the courts will again rule that the crime for which the State Charged the defendant shall proceed to trial as all issues of facts go to a trier of fact in the Florida.
Making the winning argument rarely happens in front of trial judges. Juries are where the best results come from in any court of law. Judges do not always make the right and just rulings because they are afraid, many times, of community backlash. Judges are up for re-election in Florida and voters, through special interest groups like MADD, Domestic Violent like DOVE and Child Advocates like DCF, only want judges that lock you up and throw away the key! So, remember if you are charged with a sex crime in West Palm Beach, Florida, make the winning argument through the experience of Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney Andrew D. Stine, who is a firm believer in picking juries to achieve the results to be cleared of the charges. Hire Stine or Do the Time!