Articles Posted in Sex Crimes

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A Florida man was arrested after Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) agents found child pornography pictures when searching his bag before a flight. In this case, the man checked a bag at the airport and proceeded to wait for his flight. Without his knowledge, TSA agents apparently randomly selected his luggage and searched it for explosives or other dangerous materials. The TSA agent found a folder in the suitcase and looked through it. Inside the folder, the TSA agent found several child pornography pictures. The police were called, and they obtained a search warrant to search the suspect’s computer, flash drives, camera and other items found in his suitcase. A total of 196 child pornography pictures were found as a result of the search.

The defendant’s criminal defense lawyer filed a motion to suppress the evidence of child pornography claiming that the TSA agent’s search of his suitcase and the folder went beyond the scope of what is appropriate for a search for explosives and other dangerous materials in an airport. In other words, the criminal defense attorney argued that the TSA agent went beyond the scope of what the Fourth Amendment allows when he opened the suspect’s folder and looked at the pictures so any evidence found in that search and the subsequent searches should be thrown out.

This kind of search, a routine search performed by a non-police officer government employee, is considered an administrative search and is governed by different laws than searches conducted by police officers. When police officers search someone, they typically need either permission, a search warrant or specific facts indicating the person is committing a crime. There is more leeway for administrative searches such as this one as there is a significant interest in making sure air travel is safe and people do not bring dangerous materials onto airplanes. Government agents are allowed to search people and their belongings in airports without a search warrant or probable cause as long as the search is reasonable and conducted for the limited purpose of making sure the person is not a danger to others. This does not give government employees the right to go through a person’s luggage and search every inch of it. Additionally, relatively unobtrusive technology exists that can search for weapons so TSA agents may be further limited in the searches they can conduct on their own.

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In a recent criminal case near Jacksonville, Florida where the defendant was charged with lewd or lascivious molestation for allegedly showing his penis to a 5 year old and enticing her to touch it, the state’s conviction of the defendant was reversed because the state improperly introduced evidence of the defendant’s marijuana use. Apparently, the victim’s dad and the defendant used to smoke marijuana together in the same house where the alleged lewd or lascivious molestation occurred, and this testimony came out at the trial when the prosecutor was questioning the victim’s dad. The defendant was not charged with possession of marijuana; he was only charged with the sex crime.

The jury convicted the defendant of lewd or lascivious molestation, but the conviction was reversed on appeal. The evidence of the defendant’s marijuana use was not relevant to the case and whether the defendant committed lewd or lascivious molestation. Evidence of the defendant’s marijuana use was considered impermissible character evidence and should not have been heard by the jury. In other words, the purpose of that testimony was to attack the defendant’s character because whether the defendant had used marijuana in the past had nothing to do with whether he committed the sex crime for which he was charged. Sometimes when there is an error in a trial, a conviction is not necessarily reversed if the error is considered harmless, i.e. the mistake did not appear to affect the jury’s guilty verdict. However, when the jury hears of other crimes committed by the defendant that have nothing to do with the crime that is the basis of the trial, this will almost always result in a conviction being reversed.

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There are several crimes in Florida where, if you are convicted, the judge is required to place you on sex offender probation. For other crimes, the judge normally has discretion whether to put a defendant on probation and if he/she does, the judge has discretion as to which terms of probation to impose.

That is not the case with certain sex crimes and sex offender probation in Florida. If a defendant pleads guilty or no contest to one of the relevant sex crimes or is found guilty after a trial, the judge must sentence the defendant to sex offender probation. As part of that probation, the judge must impose certain terms such as a curfew, a requirement that the defendant not live within 1,000 feet of where children congregate, to have no contact with children except under certain circumstances, to enter into and complete a sex offender treatment program, to submit DNA, to comply with certain internet restrictions, to take annual polygraph tests and other requirements. Since sex offender probation is so restrictive, and the penalties for a violation of sex offender probation are so serious, a defendant should make sure he/she understands exactly what he/she is doing before resolving the sex case with a plea or trial.

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Many of the crimes we see that involve computer or networking technology and criminal activity of a sexual nature deal with people in possession of child pornography on their computers. Law enforcement officials are able to track these photos and videos and find them on just about any computer. People need to understand that connecting a computer to the internet is like opening a door to the harddrive through which the government can freely walk, with the appropriate search warrant or permission, of course.

However, another crime we are starting to see more often in Florida deals with a new term called sexting. Sexting, which is derived from the word texting, involves sending sexually suggestive, and sometimes illegal, picture via text messages, which can be done on most cell phones these days. Some kids may think that sending a naked picture to a friend of similar age is a joke. In fact, sending a sexually suggestive picture of a minor to another person over the internet or via text message can be a serious crime in Florida. Police in the Jacksonville area are receiving more complaints about such activity and following up with arrests. When a person uses a cell phone or computer to send such a picture, it can be a federal crime. One twenty-four year old kid was recently sentenced to twenty years in federal prison for violating federal criminal laws by sending naked pictures of a minor over the internet and by cell phone. Everyone should be aware, and adults should tell their kids, that it can be a very serious crime to send nude and other sexually suggestive pictures by text message or over the internet, regardless of how harmless it may seem.

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As the Internet becomes more popular and more accessible through portable and handheld devices, more people are sending sexually explicit pictures in violation of state and federal laws. These pictures are also being sent as attachments to text messages to and from cell phones. What one person thinks is a harmless or funny text or email may actually be a serious felony crime.

Federal law enforcement authorities have noted an increase in such online criminal behavior. One area that is specifically of note is the crime of sexual extortion. Sexual extortion may result when a teenager sends a naked or suggestive picture of herself over the Internet, and someone threatens to expose her behavior to family or friends unless she sends more such pictures or more sexually explicit pictures. One federal criminal affidavit labeled this kind of crime as sextortion, according to an article on SFgate.com. The article provides several examples of recent, high-profile cases involving sexual extortion over the Internet, and the punishments some of these defendants are getting are severe, including lengthy prison sentences. Some people, particularly young people, may assume that sending sexually suggestive pictures over the Internet or via text message is fun or a harmless prank. However, depending on the circumstances, state or federal law enforcement officials may consider it a serious crime with serious consequences. And emails and text messages are often easy to trace back to the sender. The best course of action is to not post any suggestive pictures of oneself or anyone else on the Internet or send them via email or text message to anyone. Once they get posted or sent, they can end up anywhere.

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There are certain crimes in Florida that require the defendant to register as a sex offender for the rest of his/her life after a conviction. This sex offender status confers fairly rigid requirements on a person, and failure to comply can lead to an additional serious felony criminal charge in Florida. For instance, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will likely send an annual letter to a person’s registered address asking the person to verify that he/she still resides there. If the letter is not answered in time, the police may come looking for that person. If the police determine that the person has changed his/her address, permanently or temporarily, without notifying the proper authorities, that person will likely face a new third degree felony charge.

Under the Florida career sex offender law, a person must register with the Department of Corrections within two days of establishing a permanent or temporary residence. The definition of a permanent residence might sound a lot like a temporary residence. A permanent residence is a place where the person “abides, lodges or resides” for 14 or more consecutive days. A temporary residence will include any trip of four days or more or just about any series of trips to the same location. A temporary residence is defined under the Florida criminal laws as a place where the person “abides, lodges or resides” for 14 days in the aggregate in any calendar year that is not his/her permanent residence or a place where the person “routinely abides, lodges or resides” for a period of 4 or more consecutive days or nonconsecutive days in any month which is not his/her permanent address. For example, if a person likes to visit a friend at the same location one weekend each month, that would qualify as a temporary residence and need to be reported.

Any time the person changes or establishes a permanent or temporary residence under the Florida law definitions above, he/she needs to report that information to a Florida driver’s license office within two business days.

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Everyone should know that prostitution is a crime, not necessarily in certain parts of Nevada and other countries, but certainly in Jacksonville and the rest of Florida. However, as criminal defense lawyers in Jacksonville, another crime we see that often comes along with a prostitution charge is the crime of deriving proceeds from prostitution or even transporting a person for the purpose of prostitution.

Escort services are advertised all over the internet, and there is a fine line between legal behavior, such as dancing or moedling, and illegal prostitution. Police officers in Jacksonville go onto those websites trying to make arrests for prostitution and related crimes. They set up a meeting in a hotel room and record the encounter. As soon as they feel like they have evidence of prostitution, they will arrest the woman and anyone who came to the hotel room with her.

In Florida, the crime of prostitution is fairly straightforward. But as mentioned, a person can also be arrested for transporting someone for the purpose of prostitution. For this crime, the state would have to also prove that the person knew or should have known that prostitution would occur. For instance, if a person transports a woman to a party or a club or some other place without knowledge that she will be performing prostitution services there, that person would not be guilty of the charge of transporting a person for the purposes of prostitution. Absent evidence that any money changed hands between the alleged prostitute and the person transporting her, the evidence of this charge may be weak.

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As many people who follow professional football and sports in general may have heard, a woman accused Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger of sexual assault recently. The local police and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) have been investigating the claim, although no arrests have been made as of now. In a recent article, it was reported that the GBI has decided not to request a DNA sample from Roethlisberger.

One question that has been asked in response to this story is whether this is a good thing for Roethlisberger. The answer is: not necessarily. To understand that, you have to understand what is meant by the crime sexual battery which is often called sexual assault in the media and outside of the courtroom. Sexual battery in Georgia does not typically mean rape in the sense that most of us understand the word, i.e. sexual intercourse with someone against their will. Sexual battery can include just about any physical contact with the intimate parts of another person without that person’s consent. A sexual battery crime certainly does not have to rise to the level of an actual rape, which is a separate crime in Georgia. So, a sexual battery can certainly occur without any DNA evidence being left on the victim or at the scene of the crime.

In Florida, the laws are similar. If someone rapes a person as most of us understand the term, that of course is a serious felony crime. However, if someone has unauthorized physical contact with a person’s intimate part(s), but not nonconsensual intercourse, that is a crime as well.

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There have been more arrests and criminal charges for child pornography in the Jacksonville area recently, as noted by an article on News4Jax.com. Child pornography, whether a person receives it, creates it, distributes it or just views it on a computer at home, is a very serious crime that carries very stiff penalties. And there have been an increase in child pornography related arrests throughout Florida by both federal, state and local law enforcement officials.

As the article suggests, there are several reasons why we have seen more arrests for child pornography. First, state, local and federal law enforcement officials are initiating more investigations into the crime. Some crimes do not resonate with the public as much as others. For instance, not everyone can get behind spending a lot of money and resources to fight drug crimes. However, the public will always support officials who make child pornography a priority. Additionally, the technology is better today than it was in the past. This works both ways. People have more access to child pornography with computers and the internet. However, law enforcement officials have better technology to track and catch people who are viewing and sharing illegal pictures and videos.

Regardless of the reasons for the increase, when the police, FBI or other law enforcement agency make an arrest for child pornography, it is practically certain that the case will be treated very seriously by the prosecutors.

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In a recent case near Jacksonville, Florida a defendant was charged with the sex crimes of lewd or lascivious exhibition and transmitting an image harmful to minors by an electronic device. The criminal charges stemmed from an undercover operation during which a police officer posed as a thirteen year old over the internet. According to the police, the defendant began communicating with the police officer in a sexually inappropriate manner. The defendant and the police officer were chatting on Yahoo Instant Messenger. At some point, the defendant set up a web cam and exposed his penis several times. The defendant was ultimately arrested and charged with the two sex crimes.

At trial, the defendant argued that what he wrote on Yahoo Instant Messenger and what he showed on his web cam were protected by the First Amendment right to free speech because it was done through a public website. However, the court found that communications over the internet directed to children are not protected by the First Amendment and the state has a compelling interest to protect children from harmful materials on the internet.

One question that comes up regarding the sex crime of lewd or lascivious exhibition is what the words “lewd” and “lascivious” mean. Unfortunately, these words are not defined in the criminal statute. So, there is no easy answer as to what conduct is criminalized under this law. Whether conduct is lewd or lascivious is decided first by the police and the prosecutor who decide to make an arrest and bring criminal charges, but ultimately by a judge or jury. The statute gives an example of lewd or lascivious conduct as follows: exposing one’s genitals in a lewd or lascivious way. Of course, when the definition includes the words we are trying to define, that definition is not very helpful.