While many of us know that having sex with a minor as an adult is illegal, did you know that just asking a minor for sex could be a crime? Soliciting a minor occurs when someone over the age of 18 requests or coerces a minor into participating in sex acts. In Florida, this is a felony, and it can force someone to register as a sex offender for the rest of their life.
Sex crimes can have severe consequences, and solicitation of a minor is no exception. Penalties for soliciting a minor can include extensive jail time and massive fines. A Tampa criminal defense lawyer at Buda Law can help you understand your legal rights and can evaluate your case to find the best possible defenses against your criminal charges. Don’t let one mistake ruin your entire future–call us at (813) 322-2832 to schedule a free case evaluation with us today.
What is Considered a Minor in Florida?
In Florida, the age of consent is 18 years old. This means that anyone who is 17 years old or younger is considered to be a minor and, therefore, cannot legally give consent to engage in sexual activity (with some exceptions, like in the case of Romeo and Juliet laws).
What Does Solicitation of a Minor Mean?
Solicitation of a minor occurs when an adult coerces a minor into engaging in illegal sexual activity or sexual conduct with an adult. When someone 18 years of age or older commits solicitation of a minor, they don’t even have to engage in any sexual contact to be convicted of a sex crime. Just talking to a minor in a sexually explicit manner and encouraging them to engage in any sexual activity is an illegal act on its own.
Florida Statute § 847.0135(3)
According to Florida Statute § 847.0135(3), it is illegal to use electronic communication channels to knowingly seduce, solicit, lure, or entice (or attempt to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice) a person under the age of 18 to commit an illegal sexual act. It’s also illegal to use electronic communication channels to convince a minor’s parents or guardians to consent to their child committing such an act.
This specific statute prohibits the use of electronic communication channels to solicit any kind of unlawful contact or behavior from a minor, but it’s also illegal to use verbal and written communication channels to elicit sexual behavior or action from a minor.
In addition to outlining what qualifies as online solicitation of a minor, this statute lists what cannot be used as legal defenses against sexual solicitation charges. For example, if an adult is communicating with someone that they believe to be a minor but is actually a law enforcement agent or police officer posing as a minor, they can still be arrested for online solicitation of a minor and convicted of a criminal offense.
What Constitutes Online Solicitation?
In order to commit online solicitation of a minor, an adult must engage in a conversation with a minor, or someone they believe to be a minor, through the use of a:
- Computer online service,
- Internet service, local
- Bulletin board service, or
- Any other device that is able to save or transmit data.
Things like text messaging, emailing, and direct messaging to contact a minor would qualify as “online” communication. If a person uses any of these electronic means to solicit sexual acts or sexual contact with a minor, the act qualifies as online solicitation of a minor.
Additionally, each separate communication channel used can be charged as separate offenses. This means that if someone solicits sex from a minor using electronic mail and text messages, they could be charged with two counts of soliciting a minor.
What is Considered a Sexual Act?
Florida law defines sexual activity, or a sex act, as any oral, anal, or female genital penetration by or with another person’s sexual organ or some other object. Talking about these kinds of sexual acts with a minor and attempting to entice them to engage in them qualifies as solicitation of a minor.
What Qualifies as Sexual Conduct?
While sexual activity is defined as any form of penetration, sexual conduct is much broader in scope. It includes actual or simulated:
- Sexual intercourse;
- Sadomasochistic abuse;
- Exposure of the genitals; and
- Contact with clothed or unclothed
- Pubic area;
- Buttocks; or
- Breasts, if the person is female;
For the purpose of arousing or gratifying any party involved. This means that encouraging a minor to engage in real or simulated sexual behaviors could constitute as solicitation of a minor, according to Florida law.
Statute of Limitations Solicitation of a Minor
The statute of limitations is a window of time in which the state has to file charges against you in order for the charges to be valid. For online solicitation of a minor, the statute of limitations is three years from the date that the alleged crime occurred. This means that if the charges against you were filed five years after the alleged sexual solicitation, you may not be able to be criminally prosecuted.
What is the Punishment for Solicitation of a Minor in Florida?
Solicitation of a minor is a third-degree felony offense, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $5,000. If, however, the person who committed the crime misrepresented their age at any point in their communication with the minor or supposed minor, they could be charged with a second-degree felony. This is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/ or a maximum fine of $10,000.
Felony charges can stay on your criminal record for life. If you have been accused of a felony, it’s important to find a highly skilled legal team with knowledge of sex crimes so that they can defend against your charges and help you seek the lowest possible penalties for your actions.
Will a Solicitation of a Minor Charge Force You to Become a Registered Sex Offender?
Yes, if a person commits online solicitation of a minor, they must register as a sex offender. This means that if you are convicted of soliciting a minor, you will have restrictions placed on where you can work and live, and your name and information will be in an online database listing you as a sex offender for the rest of your life. Additionally, any violation of these restrictions could result in a third-degree felony charge.
Defenses for Solicitation of a Minor
In order for someone to be convicted of sexual solicitation, the state prosecutor must prove that the person accused of the crime committed the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Luckily, there are several different legal defenses that criminal defense lawyers can use to fight sex crime charges, like solicitation of a minor, and create doubt in the minds of the court.
One of the most common defenses against solicitation is the entrapment defense. This mostly occurs in cases that involve sting operations used to find and arrest potential predators. If the person accused of the crime was not speaking to a minor but was actually speaking to a law enforcement officer and the officer coaxed the accused into making sexual comments, that could be entrapment. The defense could argue that law enforcement used entrapment-like techniques to force their client to commit a crime they wouldn’t otherwise commit.
The defense could also use “double jeopardy” to fight against solicitation charges. If the defendant was charged with solicitation of a minor and another similar charge, like traveling to meet a minor, around the same time, the defense could file a motion to dismiss one of the charges. This may only happen if one of the crimes was committed very soon after the other.
In order to walk free, those accused of soliciting a minor require aggressive representation and expert legal counsel. If you have been arrested under suspicion of sexual solicitation charges, the criminal defense attorneys at Buda Law are here to help.
Our team has experience handling sex crimes and can help ensure you receive the best outcome for your situation. Call us at (813) 322-2832 to schedule a free consultation so that we can discuss your case.
Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney for Sex Crime Charges
When your freedom is at risk, you’ll want experienced legal guidance to help you defend it. At Buda Law, we have experience in defending Tampa residents accused of various kinds of sex crimes, including child pornography, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, and solicitation.