Traveling to Meet a Minor
There is a lot of pressure on law enforcement across Florida to catch adults who travel to meet children for the purpose of sexual activities. Often, they conduct undercover operations to catch adults who are trying to meet and have sex with people under age 18. The operation may start with the police posting in a chatroom, on Craigslist, or somewhere else on the internet to find people who are online to engage in sexting or trying to find minors for sexual activity. Sometimes they pose as a guardian or mother of a child who wants the adult suspect to teach their child how to have sex or introduce them to sexual activity. If you are charged with traveling to meet a minor, it is critical to retain a St. Petersburg internet sex crime lawyer right away. You should not give a statement to the police without first consulting an attorney who has experience defending these charges. At Hanlon Law, we are committed to protecting the rights of the accused.Traveling to Meet a Minor
Traveling to meet a minor involves going any distance for the purpose of engaging in sexual battery, lewd or lascivious offenses, child abuse, or other forms of illegal sexual conduct with a child after using email, the internet, or any electronic device to lure, solicit, or seduce them. It can also involve soliciting or trying to solicit someone believed to be a parent of a child to participate in an illegal sexual act. You can be charged with traveling to meet a minor even if the other person is simply posing as a child.
As a second-degree felony, traveling to meet a minor is punished harshly. If convicted, a judge can sentence you to up to 15 years’ imprisonment or probation and fine you $10,000. There is a minimum sentence that you must serve, which is 21 months. Each time that you use an electronic device, computer, or online service for the purpose of arranging sexual conduct with a minor, you can be charged separately for this crime. For example, if you contacted a minor or their mother five times in a chatroom to convince the minor to have sex, you can be charged with five counts of traveling to meet a minor.
It is common for undercover officers to pretend to be children or mothers in order to catch adults for this particular crime, as with child pornography or similar offenses. In some cases, they may talk a suspect into teaching their child about sex. The entrapment defense sometimes can be raised in response, but only when certain factors are present. It matters who initiated the discussion of sex, how often the officer tried to contact you about the sex, how long the relationship was, and whether the officer persisted even after you expressed reluctance. Law enforcement officers are not permitted to take someone who does not have a predisposition toward committing a particular crime and persuade them to do so. More often, entrapment is an appropriate defense when a police officer poses as a parent and tries to coerce a suspect to get involved with the child.
In some cases, there may be no actual sexual activity discussed. It may be possible for your attorney to argue that the purpose was not sex but friendship. For example, if you discussed a non-sexual hobby with someone who later turned out to be a minor, and you arranged to meet her at a place where you pursue the hobby, there may be a plausible argument that there is insufficient evidence of traveling for sexual purposes.Seek Assistance from a St. Petersburg Defense Lawyer for a Sex Crime Charge
If you are being investigated for traveling to meet a minor in St. Petersburg, it can be helpful to retain an attorney even before charges are filed. Our founder, Will Hanlon, has been providing criminal defense representation since 1994. We are dedicated to guarding the rights of the accused. You can call Hanlon Law at 727.897.5413 or submit our online form for an appointment.