Traveling to Meet a Minor Attorney in Tampa, FL
Traveling to meet a minor for unlawful sex is one of the most aggressively prosecuted crimes on the books in Florida. It is often charged together with similar crimes such as online solicitation of a child and sending harmful material to a child. If you find yourself charged with traveling to meet a minor, you should do nothing else before you obtain qualified legal representation.
If you or a loved one are facing soliciting a child charges in the Tampa, FL, area, call Armando Edmiston, an experienced Tampa soliciting a child criminal defense lawyer, today.
Traveling to Meet a Minor: Defined in Tampa, FL
Under Florida law, it is a crime to travel any distance — within the state, from the state or to the state — to meet a minor after soliciting him or her for sex online. It is also a crime to travel to meet a minor after soliciting the minor’s parents online to allow the minor to engage in sexual acts. Traveling to meet a minor cases frequently involve law enforcement decoys posing online as either children or parents, and for legal purposes it does not matter that a “minor” or “parent” was in fact a decoy. Dateline NBC’s To Catch a Predator series filmed a two-hour special in Florida in which the show partnered with local law enforcement to catch men accused of soliciting children online and then traveling to meet them. Under the law, a defendant cannot argue in court that he is not guilty because a decoy was involved. Traveling to meet a child is punishable by as many as 15 years and carries a mandatory minimum of 21 months.
Traveling to Meet a Minor and Online Solicitation in Tampa, FL
If you have been charged with traveling to meet a minor, you are almost certainly also facing charges of soliciting a child online. Online solicitation occurs when an adult uses the Internet to contact a child or a decoy posing as a child in order to seduce, solicit, lure or entice the child or decoy to engage in sexual acts. It is also considered online solicitation to use the Internet to solicit, lure or entice a parent, guardian or custodian of a child (or a decoy posing as a parent, guardian or custodian) to consent to the child’s participation in a sexual act. Online solicitation of a child is a third-degree felony punishable by a maximum of five years in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 21 months, though the minimum can increase considerably depending on factors such as prior criminal record and parole or probation status. Each solicitation counts as a separate criminal act, so as many as five years can be added for each online conversation. Enhanced penalties apply if you lie about your age when soliciting a minor online; this is a second-degree felony and carries a maximum penalty of 15 years for each solicitation. It should be noted that since traveling to meet a minor is a companion charge to online solicitation, penalties for a single combined instance of solicitation plus traveling to meet a minor include a maximum of 20 years. These penalties increase five years with each additional solicitation, so a simple series of exchanges with a law enforcement decoy (who may have used trickery to induce the solicitation) can lead to major prison time, even assuming maximum sentence are not imposed.