Solicitation of a Minor

The crime of soliciting a minor encompasses a much wider range of activities than a standard solicitation charge. This is largely due to the prevalence of the use of the internet in soliciting minors across the country.

Computer Pornography

Under Fla. Stat. 847.0135, a person who commits any of the following acts for the purpose of soliciting the sexual conduct of or with any minor can be charged with the third degree felony offense of computer pornography:
  • Knowingly compiles, enters into, or transmits an advertisement of a minor’s name, physical characteristics, or identifying information, or a depiction of a child involved in sexual conduct via computer
  • Makes, prints, or reproduces such content by computerized means
  • Knowingly allows or causes this type of information to be entered into or transmitted via computer
  • Purchases, sells, exchanges, receives, or disseminates this type of content
Third-degree felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for each charge. Furthermore, defendants are not permitted to raise as a defense that an undercover police officer was involved in the sting operation that led to their discovery or arrest.

Prohibited Uses of Computers

In Florida, people can also be charged with soliciting a minor if they use a computer online service or any device capable of electronic transmission or storage to:
  • Solicit, lure, or entice a child (or someone believed by the person to be a child) to engage in unlawful sexual conduct
  • Lure, entice or solicit, a parent (or someone believed to be a child’s parent) to allow the participation of a child in sexual conduct
Under this provision, even attempting to solicit a minor for this purpose using an online service can be prosecuted. Further, those who misrepresent their age in order to convince a minor to engage in unlawful sexual conduct face increased second-degree felony charges, which could mean up to 15 years in prison. Defendants can also expect a separate charge for each time they used an online service to solicit a minor.

Traveling to Meet a Minor

A person also faces second-degree felony charges if he or she travels a distance, whether within the state, to the state, or from the state, to engage in unlawful sexual conduct with a minor after using an online service in order to:
  • Solicit, seduce, or lure a minor to engage in sexual conduct
  • Solicit, lure, or entice a child’s parent to consent to the engagement of the child in sexual conduct
This provision also criminalizes attempting to travel or causing another person to travel to meet a minor after soliciting that child online.

Owners/Operators of Computer Services

In Florida, it is unlawful for owners or operators of computer online services or internet services to allow a subscriber to use the service to solicit a child. Those who violate this law face first-degree misdemeanor charges and a $2,000 fine.

Multiple Charges

As mentioned previously, anytime a defendant solicits a minor, he or she can be charged with a separate offense. Even multiple conversations with the same person can qualify as separate offenses. If for example, an offender solicited a minor in a chat room on Monday, but did not finalize plans to meet up at a predetermined location until two days later, he could she could be charged with committing the crime of soliciting a minor on two occasions.

Sting Operations

Charges filed as a result of information received through an online sting operation have become increasingly common, especially when it comes to child solicitation offenses. Although police officers use a variety of techniques during these investigations, one of the most common is known as the “bait and switch” technique, in which an undercover agent initiates contact with someone and proposes engaging in legal sexual relations. Later, the agents will direct the conversation to unlawful sexual activity, perhaps with a child. When the other person agrees to participate and sets up a meeting time, officers will make the arrest.

In other situations, agents post fake profiles or ads on social media and other websites, posing as minors. Once a person expresses interest, the parties will begin conversing in a chat room or through email or text message. If the offender proposes a meeting, he or she could be charged with a variety of sex offenses, including solicitation.

Although these techniques are legal, agents are only permitted to push offenders so far or risk being accused of entrapment, which involves inducing someone to commit a crime that he or she would not have been predisposed to commit without urging from the officer. In order for this defense to be successful, the defendant will need to prove that he or she was not predisposed to commit this type of sex offense, which can be difficult if there is no evidence demonstrating that the agent initiated the conversations or proposed meeting up at a later date.
Newsweek Super Lawyers BBB Avvo The National Trials Lawyers