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  • What statute makes Traveling to Meet a Minor a crime?
    Florida Statute § 847.0135(4) defines the offense of traveling or attempting to travel to engage in unlawful sexual conduct after using an electronic device or online service to seduce, entice, or solicit a child for such unlawful sexual conduct.
  • What are the elements of the offense?
    There are four elements to the charge, each of which the prosecution must prove beyond and to the exclusion of each and every reasonable doubt. The offense of traveling to meet a minor has the following elements: (1) knowingly traveling within the state, (2) for the purpose of engaging in any illegal act of unlawful sexual conduct with the victim after using a computer or other electronic data storage transmission to contact a child, (3) the victim was a child or person believed by the defendant to be a child, and (4) the defendant seduced, solicited, lured, enticed, or attempted to do so to engage in the illegal act or unlawful sexual conduct.
  • Are there any defenses to this charge?
    Absolutely, yes. The statute requires that a computer service be used to commit the crime (which may not have technically occurred). Or the defendant may not have understood the proposition to include prohibited sex acts. Or the defendant might not have believed the other person was really a minor ("role-playing" is legal: consenting adults are free to engage in sexually-oriented communication without violating the statute). Or the defendant may have really believed the minor was emancipated (a legal adult even though under age 18). Those are just a few examples. The possible defenses are extensive.
  • What does the statute mean by "child"?
    By referencing chapter 827, Florida statutes, the traveling to meet a minor statute incorporates "any person under 18 years" as the definition of child.
  • Is it still a crime if the minor is imaginary (the police made it up)?
    Yes, it still a crime if the minor is imaginary (the police made it up) because the crime includes attempting to travel to engage in unlawful sexual conduct with a as a child's friend or an adult intermediary).
  • Why is this a crime even if it is just based upon speech, and nobody is actually harmed?
    The State clearly has a compelling interest in protecting minors from being lured to engage in illegal sexual acts, and speech that is used to further the sexual exploitation of children most certainly does not enjoy constitutional protection under the First Amendment. A person of ordinary intelligence would readily understand that it is a criminal to use a computer to communicate with a person who appeared to be a child (or the parent of a child) to obtain consent to having sex with the child.
  • Is this a general intent crime or specific intent crime?
    Specific intent. The government must prove that the defendant had the specific intent to do the specific sex acts that the defendant alleged sought to do with the minor.
  • What is the potential sentence for the charge?
    As a second-degree felony, for each count, this offense is punishable by fifteen years' imprisonment along with a $10,000 fine.
  • Is there a less-included offense to the charge?
    Yes. Based on the same conduct, the charge of misuse of a computer device is contained within the charge for using a computer to solicit a child. This third-degree felony (misuse of a computer device) is a lesser-included offense, meaning that the jury may only return a verdict with a maximum sentence of five years' prison instead of fifteen years' prison.
  • Does the defendant have to be in Florida to commit the crime?
    No. Florida's criminal jurisdiction extends to communications by a defendant into Florida from the Dominican Republic, or Africa, or anywhere else.
  • What is the proper venue for the charges?
    Venue for prosecution for attempting to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice, a child, or another person believed by the defendant to be a child is proper in the Florida county in which the defendant's e-mail, text, or other communication was received.
  • What can be achieved in discovery to defend such charges?
    A sheriff's operation plan for an undercover operation can be forced to be disclosed, showing improper investigative techniques. Or a lack of predisposition can be shown (no real intent to have sexual contact with a minor). Identity can be raised (who really did this). The possible issues to raise against the state's case are extremely broad.
  • Is entrapment a defense?
    Absolutely. Objective entrapment is a defense. That means anyone could gave been tricked and arrested for the charge, as demonstrated by police conduct in the case. Subjective entrapment is also a viable defense. That means this particular defendant had no predisposition to commit the charged crime, as demonstrated by police conduct in the case, and by the defendant's personal background.
  • Can the defendant be prevented from having any contact with minors while fighting the case or after the case is resolved?
    No. A defendant's “no contact with minors” condition of pretrial release or probation is overly broad because it subjects the defendant to possible punishment for innocent or inadvertent conduct.
  • Does a defendant have to be adjudicated guilty (become a convicted felon) upon being sentenced for this charge?
    No. A trial judge can withhold adjudication on the offense of traveling to meet a minor for purpose of engaging in an illegal act. The offense is a second-degree felony. So, the judge must simply make written findings supporting the decision to not adjudicate the defendant guilty (making the defendant a convicted felon). For example, the judge might simply write that the defendant is not a danger to the community.
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