Internet Crimes & Sex Crimes Defense Attorney

Larry Sandefer – Sex Crimes & Internet Crimes Defense Attorney

Have you or a loved one been accused of a sex crime or sex offense such as lewd and lascivious molestation, you are not alone!

An accusation of a sex crime can have lifetime consequences. A conviction can carry an extended prison sentence. State law provides that even after completing a prison sentence on a sex offense that the State can petition to keep a person in “sex offender treatment” indefinitely.

That “sex offender treatment” is held at a secure location behind secure fences and locked doors. Additionally, someone convicted of an enumerated sex offense may be labeled a sex offender or a sexual predator and placed on a Statewide website for a minimum of 20 years. Even an accusation of a sex crime can permanently affect and alter your business and personal relationships.

What Constitutes a Sex Offense or Sex ‘Crime’?

A sex offense can include many types of alleged behavior. Touching a minor in an inappropriate place can be the sex offense of lewd and lascivious behavior or conduct, this can be true even if the touching is on the outside of the clothing. Any type of sexual penetration of a minor constitutes sexual battery, which was formerly called rape. If the minor is under the age of 12, that offense can become the offense of capital sexual battery carrying a mandatory life sentence. Sexual penetration without consent on an adult or with an adult who is unable to consent can be sexual battery. You can imagine the many scenarios which the police may determine are ‘without consent’.  Exposure of sexual organs can be classified as a sex crime.

 

Sex crimes are set forth in Florida statutes. They are mainly found in chapters 794 and 800. A conviction for sex offense can not only mean time in prison, or probation either instead of or in addition to prison, and other criminal penalties, but a lifetime listing on the sex offender registry.

Specific Types of sex crimes

Sex crimes in Florida include:

Sexual battery (F.S. 794.011)

Sexual battery on an adult was formerly known as rape. Under Florida statutes this can be committed in different ways, but it normally involves some type of penetration or what is termed as “union with” sexual organs. If the alleged victim is under the age of 12 a sexual battery becomes a capital felony. A capital felony is punishable by a mandatory sentence of from 25 years to life.

Lewd or lascivious battery (F.S. 800.04)

A lewd or lascivious battery occurs when a person engages in sexual activity with a person older than 12 but less than 16 years of age or encourages any other act involving sexual activity. This is a felony of the second degree punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Lewd or lascivious molestation (F.S. 800.04)

A lewd or lascivious molestation occurs when a person touches a person less than 16 years of age in a lewd manner or forces that person to touch him or her in a lewd manner. If the alleged victim is less than 12 years of age the offense is more serious.

Unlawful sexual activity with certain minors (F.S. 794.05)

A person 24 years of age or older who engages in sexual activity with a person either 16 or 17 years of age commits a felony of the second degree, punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. There are aggravating factors to this offense.

Other sex crimes against children (F.S. 827.071)

Florida statutes cover acts which are defined as “deviate sexual intercourse”, “sexual conduct”, “sexual performance” and other acts which if performed upon her in the presence of a minor are crimes.

Internet sex crimes (F.S. 847)

The Internet has become widely used and as a result has also become a tool of law enforcement to locate those who possess or download child pornography or commit acts which are considered sex offenses by use of the Internet. Is unlawful for a person to knowingly possess materials that depict a minor engaged in any sexual act or partaking in sexual conduct that is harmful to minors.

Knowledge by a person that the material is regarding a child is very generally defined. Ignorance of a minor’s age or the misrepresentation of his or her age is generally not a defense to a sex crime. Internet sex crimes can include such things as exposing minors to harmful motion pictures.  The legislature included a wide variety of behavior as a sex crime.

Possession of child pornography on a computer

Traveling to Meet a Minor or Suspected Minor for Sex

Florida has passed specific statutes which are entitled “Computer pornography and child exploitation prevention act.” It is illegal for a person to use a computer or online service to attempt to solicit or seduce the child regarding a sex act. Is illegal for a person to travel to meet a minor for the purpose or intent of engaging in any illegal act described in the Florida statutes regarding sexual conduct. Sharing of child pornography with other persons is illegal.

Defenses are available to the charge of possession of child pornography on a computer. Simply because material is found on a computer does not mean that the person knowingly put that material on their computer. It is possible for material to get onto a computer unknown to that computer operator. Items may be stored on a computer, and materials once stored generally cannot be thoroughly deleted. There are legal distinctions between erotica and pornography. This can involve many aspects of photographic and video materials located on a computer. An experienced Internet pornography defense attorney should be familiar with these distinctions in a legal and factual context. Larry Sandefer has this knowledge and experience.  We have access to computer experts who can assist us in legal issues involving how materials get onto a computer, where they are stored, as well as the legal distinctions of erotica and pornography.

Human Trafficking

A new statute and a new push by law enforcement is in the area of human trafficking.  Unfortunately, although the legislature passed the statutes to target the organizers and abusers of children and others for commercial sex, the statute is so broad as to cover many other situations, and as such, arrests for  human trafficking have been large.  Call us about your, or your loved one’s particular accusation and we can set up a time to meet and review defenses, options, and potential outcomes to see if they  may include reduction or dismissal.    

Other Sex Crimes

Other types of sex crimes with which we have experience include Human Trafficking, indecent exposure, prostitution, sale of up seen material, sexting, and other listed offenses. Many of these only constitute misdemeanors.

 Defenses to Sex Offenses and Accusations and Related Matters

It is important if you or someone you know is facing a sex crime offense or Internet sex crime offense in Pinellas County, Pasco County, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, or the surrounding areas that you or they contact an experienced sex crimes defense lawyer and discuss the  case or investigation  with that lawyer. Larry Sandefer is a highly experienced and respected Pinellas County and Tampa Bay area sex crimes defense attorney who has defended sex crimes throughout Pinellas County, Hillsborough County, Pasco County, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, and the surrounding areas.

Yes, there are defenses available to sex offenses. Many of these defenses are similar to defenses in other criminal cases.  Some  may involve search warrants, the legality of a search, vehicle stop issues, consent searches or other search issues, intent, knowledge, sufficient evidence and many other proof matters.

The burden of proof of a sex offense is always upon the state attorney. That burden of proof is ‘beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt’. Many  people are not aware that the state attorney can bring charges based only upon the statements of witnesses that appear to be reliable. Physical evidence is not required in order to charge someone with a crime. Many charges of sexual battery or conduct involving lewd and lascivious molestation allegations may not be accompanied by physical evidence. This is particularly true in late reported incidences.  This lack of corroboration may help  defending accusations.

The state may produce evidence such as DNA, or medical evidence. This type of evidence can be challenged and you should seek the advice and help of an experienced sex crimes defense attorney.

Other evidentiary matters that apply to sex cases involving children include the child hearsay law. In some cases statements made by a child to another person are not legally ‘hearsay’ and can be entered as evidence in the case. In other types of charges not involving children, those might be considered hearsay. Sandefer Law Firm is experienced in child hearsay cases and has litigated child hearsay issues and successfully fought admissibility of child hearsay statements getting them excluded from trial.

Similar fact evidence, also known as Williams rule evidence, is often sought to be admitted by the prosecution in child sex offense cases.  In other words, putting on evidence of other bad acts by the defendant to try to show that he did what he or she is charged with.  The rules for admission of this similar fact evidence in sex cases are more lenient than rules for admission of similar fact evidence in other types of cases. Admission of a prior act involving another alleged victim can be devastating. It is important that you consult with an attorney who is familiar with the rules and laws in sex accusation cases and child sex charges, and aggressively fighting the introduction of similar fact evidence and the grounds that may be used to keep such evidence out.

The credibility of witnesses and the credibility of child hearsay witnesses is a matter that needs to be addressed in every case and you should speak to your attorney about those matters.

The age of a defendant in relation to the age of the victim can play a large role in determining the possible outcome of a charge involving a sex offense. Even though the age may not be a defense, it may be a mitigating factor in negotiations. Larry Sandefer is a former prosecutor in Pinellas and Pasco County where he was not only a Lead Trial Attorney but a Division Director. He has prosecuted and defended these cases. It is the prosecutors who are presently in those positions which he once held  who are going to make critical decisions in charges, reducing charges, dropping charges, and in sentencing recommendations. Larry Sandefer has been in those positions and knows what goes in to those decisions. These are things which Larry Sandefer dealt with as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney.

Sandefer Law Firm has access to experts and investigators to assist in the preparation and defense of your case. These experts are in various specialties including false child sexual abuse allegations, false sex offense allegations, medical experts regarding child sex abuse and child abuse, false confessions, DNA, medical doctors, psychologists, and other experts whose opinions can be of value in defense of your case. Larry Sandefer attends numerous continuing legal education courses in sex offenses, Internet offenses, and child pornography.

Talking to law enforcement

To talk or not to talk

               Do not talk with Law Enforcement without consulting with an attorney first, afterwards may be too late.

The chief purpose of law enforcement contacting a person is to interview them to try to obtain admissions and evidence. By the time this request to speak with a person occurs, law enforcement has already spoken with the person making the accusation or has already accessed computer information and has knowledge of material that they believe is on a computer or of an act involving a child that they likely believe occurred. It is never advisable to talk with a law enforcement officer without first consulting with an experienced child photography defense attorney or sex crimes defense attorney.

Do not assume that you can convince a detective of your lack of knowledge or that you did not do something. The law may be, and probably is, drastically different than you believe it is. Consent is quite often irrelevant as a defense. Lack of knowledge of person’s age, similarly, is also probably not relevant to a defense. If a person is incapable of consenting by either a mental defect or the particular state of mind they are in at the time, this also may not be a defense to a sexual act. This can be true if the alleged victim has had too much to drink or is under the influence of a narcotic or drug, even if that was induced by the alleged victim themselves.

The initial consultation at Sandefer Law Firm is free and is confidential.

Penalties for sex offenses in Florida

Penalties for sex offenses in Florida, especially offenses involving children, are extremely tough. Most offenses, if a person is convicted as charged, call for a presumptive prison sentence under Florida’s sentencing code. Some offenses called for a mandatory minimum sentence. Most sex offenses require registry as either a sex offender or a sexual predator.  Call us, come in for a free consultation to discuss the individual circumstances of your case.

“When experience counts, count on experience.”

If you need help, call us now. Put experience to work for you!

We are your Pinellas County Sex Crimes Defense Attorney, your Pasco County Sex Crimes Defense Attorney, your Clearwater Sex Crimes Defense Attorney, and your St. Petersburg Sex Crimes Defense Attorney. We also defend cases in Hillsborough County and throughout the state of Florida as needed.