In Florida, Can I Be Charged with Transmitting Material Harmful to Minors over the Internet?
Yes. In Florida, it is a crime to send images or information that is sexual in nature to a minor, or someone believed to be a minor. This felony often arises out of text conversations or online chat forums. When an adult transmits this type of material to a minor, or to law enforcement posing as a minor, that person will be charged with a felony and the consequences are very serious.
This felony offense is often seen charged alongside the crimes of Traveling to Meet a Minor or Solicitation of a Child Using the Internet.
You can be convicted of Transmission of Material Harmful to Minors if it is proven that you transmitted an “image, information, or data that is harmful to minors”, “to a specific individual known by the defendant to be a minor.”
Material is considered harmful to minors when it is a “reproduction, imitation, characterization, description, exhibition, presentation, or representation, of whatever kind or form, depicting nudity, sexual conduct, or sexual excitement” and when the material:
- predominantly appeals to a prurient, shameful, or morbid interest;
- is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable material or conduct for minors; and
- taken as a whole, is without serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.
What Happens if I Travel to Meet a Minor that I Met Online?
We have all seen, or at least heard about, the show called “To Catch a Predator”. You may have also watched or read news stories discussing the similar stings that local law enforcement agencies conduct to identify citizens who are communicating online with minors, or in many cases, officers posing as minors. Law enforcement agencies dedicate significate amounts of manpower, money, and resources to organize and carry out these investigations.
In Florida, the result is often devastating for the person on the other side of the computer screen. The individual can be arrested and charged with Traveling to Meet a Minor, Solicitation of a Child Using the Internet, Transmission of Material Harmful to Minors, and even Possession or Transmission of Child Pornography, to name a few.
To be convicted of the offense of Traveling to Meet a Minor, the prosecution must prove that the person traveled within or to the state of Florida for the purpose of:
- Engaging in any illegal act described in Florida Statutes Chapter 794 (Sexual Battery), Chapter 800 (Lewdness; Indecent Exposure), or Chapter 827 (Abuse of Children); or
- Engaging in other unlawful sexual conduct with a child, or with another person believed by the person to be a child, after using a computer online service, Internet service, local bulletin board service, or any other device capable of electronic data storage or transmission to:
- Seduce, solicit, lure, or entice or attempt to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice a child or another person believed by the person to be a child, to engage in an illegal sexual act or to engage in unlawful sexual conduct with a child; or
- Solicit, lure, or entice or attempt to solicit, lure, or entice a parent, legal guardian, or custodian of a child or a person believed to be a parent, legal guardian, or custodian of a child to consent to the participation of such child in an illegal sexual act or to engage in any sexual conduct.
Possession of Child Pornography in Florida
The offense of Possession of Child Pornography is a serious crime in Florida, as well as on the federal level. The consequences of a conviction are far-reaching and can be life altering for the person charged and convicted.
The criminal offenses related to child pornography can be found in Florida Statute §827.071. A person is guilty of unlawfully possessing child pornography if he or she knowingly possesses, controls, or intentionally views a photograph, motion picture, exhibition, show, representation, image, data, computer depiction, or other presentation which, in whole or in part, he or she knew to include any sexual conduct by a child.
It is often the case that a person charged with this offense faces multiple counts of the crime. This is because each photograph, motion picture, exhibition, show, image, data, computer depiction, representation, or presentation may be charged as a separate felony offense.
Additionally, if the photograph, motion picture, exhibition, show, representation, image, data, computer depiction, or other presentation depicts sexual conduct by more than one child, each child may be charged as a separate felony offense.
If I Was Charged with Possessing Child Pornography, Do I Have a Defense?
First and foremost, I will mention what is not a defense to unlawfully possessing child pornography and that is the fact that an undercover operative or law enforcement officer was involved in the detection and investigation of an offense. This information cannot constitute a defense to the crime charged.
Some potential defenses that may be available are:
- The possession was unintentional or unknowing
- There was an unintentional, or accidental, download of material
- The computer in question was shared by other people or was public
- Law enforcement conducted an illegal search and seizure of the evidence or equipment
- The specific content does not meet the legal requirements to be considered child pornography
Does Florida Law Describe What is Considered to be Prohibited Computer Usage?
Yes. The Florida Legislature states that the offense of Prohibited Computer Usage is committed when any person knowingly uses a computer online service, Internet service, local bulletin board service, or any other device capable of electronic data storage or transmission to:
- Seduce, solicit, lure, or entice, or attempt to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice, a child or another person believed by the person to be a child, or to otherwise engage in any unlawful sexual conduct with a child or with another person believed to be a child; or
- Solicit, lure or entice, or attempt to solicit, lure, or entice a parent, legal guardian, or custodian of a child or a person believed to be a parent, legal guardian, to the custodian of a child to consent to the participation of such child.
- Similar to the law prohibiting someone from possessing child pornography, if there are separate uses of computer online services, Internet services, local bulletin board services, or any other device capable of electronic data storage transmission wherein an offense is committed, each use may be charged as a separate offense.
There are potential defenses if you are charged with a Prohibited Computer Usage offense, and they include the following:
- You unknowingly used a device to contact the victim
- The victim was not a child, or a person believed by you to be a child
- You unknowingly used a device to contact a parent, legal guardian, or any person that you believed was a parent or legal guardian of a child
- There was no solicitation, luring or enticement involved in the communications
Hiring a Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are charged with a sexual offense that stems from the use of the internet or a computer, it is imperative that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. In this type of case, there is a chance that electronic evidence may be lost or destroyed. It is important to begin preparing your defense, consulting experts and persevering evidence. Call the Law Offices of Powers Sellers & Finkelstein today for a free case consultation.