Articles Posted in Sex with Minor

Plea deals are an important potential tool for anyone charged with a crime in Florida. They allow you to resolve the charges and move on with your life, often with a reduced punishment. It’s important to understand, however, that in most cases you can’t take back a plea deal once you’ve been convicted. One important exception to that rule is in cases in which new evidence tends to show that you didn’t commit the crime with which you were charged. Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal recently explained how courts look at newly discovered evidence in Florida lewd and lascivious molestation cases.

gavelA defendant was charged with two counts of committing a lewd and lascivious act in 1997, stemming from allegations that he molested his stepdaughters. The girls were six and seven years old at the time. The defendant eventually reached a deal with prosecutors. He pleaded no contest to the charges in exchange for 10 years of probation with the opportunity for early termination after five years. He went back to court in 2015 and asked a judge to withdraw his conviction based on new evidence. He presented statements from the two victims, who said they lied to police about the incidents. Although the women also later testified at a hearing that they had lied to police during an interview, a trial judge denied the defendant’s request. The judge said he “ha[d] not demonstrated a manifest injustice based on actual innocence.”

But the Third District reversed the decision on appeal. The court said the trial judge used the wrong standard to consider the defendant’s request. It pointed to the Florida Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Long v. State. The high court in that case laid out a two-pronged test for considering a request to scrap a conviction based on new evidence.

Continue reading

Florida sexual battery cases often focus on intricate legal arguments about whether what the person who is accused of the crime allegedly did qualifies as a crime. Those debates can have significant consequences. They can mean the difference between a conviction or acquittal and determine the type of punishment that a person faces in the event of a conviction. A recent case out of Florida’s Supreme Court, for example, focused on what state lawmakers meant when they included the term “unnatural” in the lewd or lascivious battery law.

police handcuffsA defendant was charged with lewd or lascivious battery stemming from an incident in which he allegedly had sex with a female victim between the ages of 12 and 16 years old. At trial, his lawyer asked the judge to instruct the jury that he could instead be convicted of an “unnatural and lascivious act,” a lesser offense that carries a less significant punishment. The judge declined, finding that prosecutors had not alleged that the defendant engaged in “unnatural” conduct. A jury eventually convicted him of lewd or lascivious battery.

The state’s Fourth District Court of Appeal later overturned the conviction, finding that the judge should have instructed the jury on the lesser offense. The appeals court said the allegation that the defendant had sex with a minor qualified as “unnatural” under the law because “such conduct is not in accordance with nature or with normal feelings or behavior and are lustful acts performed with sensual intent on the part of the defendant.”

Continue reading

In internet sex crime cases, the law puts the burden on prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person committed the specific crime with which he or she has been charged. Trials and evidentiary hearings give prosecutors the chance to put forth the evidence to make that case and for the person charged to pick that case apart and offer defenses. Even if you are ultimately convicted of a crime, you have the right to continue to try to get that conviction vacated or overturned on appeal. A recent case out of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal provides some detail about what is expected of a judge faced with a request to scrap a sex crime conviction.computer

A defendant was charged with two federal sex offenses stemming from allegations that he arranged to pay an undercover officer for sex with a minor. Prosecutors alleged that the defendant used an internet chat room to communicate with the officer, who was posing as the father of a young girl with mental impairments. The defendant allegedly agreed to pay $70 and arranged to meet the undercover officer in a set location with the understanding that the officer would then drive him to the girl to have sex with her. He was arrested when he showed up at the meeting place with condoms and the $70, according to prosecutors.

The defendant was charged with attempting to use the internet to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity and committing that offense while required to register as a sex offender. He pleaded guilty to the first offense and not guilty to the second. He was convicted following a jury trial on the second charge. He later asked a federal judge to scrap his conviction on the first charge, however, saying that he unknowingly pleaded guilty because he did not understand the applicable law and his possible defenses. The judge declined the request without holding a hearing and allowing him to introduce evidence. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit said that might have been a mistake.

A statute of limitations in criminal cases generally refers to the time limits for prosecutors to charge a person with a criminal offense. These limits often come up in child sex crimes and other cases in Florida. As the state’s Fourth District Court of Appeals recently explained, prosecutors generally can’t charge someone with a crime after the limitations period has expired.police handcuffs

A defendant was charged with three sex crimes stemming from an incident involving his former girlfriend’s young daughters. The girls had been abandoned by their mother, according to the court, and were living with their grandmother at the time. The defendant still saw the children from time to time. The incident occurred while the two girls and their brother were helping him clean his apartment and staying overnight. First, he allegedly asked the 12-year-old daughter to massage his penis. The girl complied, despite saying that she didn’t want to do it, according to the court. He then led the girl into the bathroom and had sex with her. Later during the night, he allegedly rubbed the 10-year-old daughter’s breasts and vagina while she was sleeping.

The defendant was convicted following trial for sexual battery on a child, lewd and lascivious molestation of a child between the ages of 12 and 16, and lewd and lascivious molestation of a child under the age of 12. He was designated a sexual predator and sentenced to 75 years in prison.

Continue reading

The rule against hearsay generally bans one person from testifying in court about what another person said outside court, if it’s being used to prove a fact. In other words, an alleged rape victim’s friend generally can’t testify in court that the victim told the friend that the person charged with the crime raped the victim. There are a number of exceptions to this rule, however, including one for statements made out of court by a minor describing a sex crime. As Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal recently explained, however, a judge has to perform a specific factual analysis before allowing hearsay evidence into the record.

judge gavelA defendant was charged with unlawful sexual activity, stemming from an incident in which he allegedly had sexual contact with a girl under the age of 18. At trial, the victim’s mother testified that her family was visiting Florida on vacation when the crime occurred. They were visiting with extended family at the time, and at least nine people were in the house. After the victim asked her mother three separate times to leave the home, she eventually told her mother that the defendant had touched the victim on her breasts and vagina while she was sleeping in her grandmother’s bed upstairs. When the mother asked the victim what she meant, the victim said “I don’t think I’m a virgin anymore,” according to the mother.

The victim told a police officer in a recorded interview that the defendant entered the bedroom, lay down next to her, and started fondling her breasts. She said he eventually had sex with her.

Continue reading

Double jeopardy is an important protection for anyone charged with a sex or other crime in Florida. The double jeopardy rule basically says that a person cannot be charged twice for the same crime. What do we mean by the same crime? A recent case out of Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals sheds some light on how courts approach the issue.

police handcuffsThe defendant was charged with various crimes stemming from an incident in which prosecutors said he got a 14-year-old girl in his car against her will, drove her to a secluded area, and raped the girl. He dropped the girl at her school after the attack, according to the court, and she immediately reported the rape. Following a jury trial, he was convicted of sexual battery with a deadly weapon, lewd or lascivious battery, lewd or lascivious molestation, and kidnapping, among other offenses. He later appealed the lewd or lascivious battery and sexual battery convictions, arguing that they violated the double jeopardy protection.

“When considering a double jeopardy claim alleging multiple convictions for the same offense, we first consider whether the convictions arose from the same criminal transaction or episode,” the court explained. “If we conclude that the convictions arose from the same criminal episode, we must then determine if the convictions were predicated on distinct acts.” Finally, the court said it would look at the laws describing each crime to see if one crime requires an element of proof that the other does not.

Continue reading

Florida police officers and investigators go to great lengths to investigate sex crimes and other criminal offenses. A recent case out of the Fourth District Court of Appeals shows some of the limits on the things that they can do to help secure a conviction.

barbed wireThe defendant was arrested and charged with three counts of sexual battery on a person less than 12 years old and one count of lewd and lascivious conduct. The charges came after a member of his family accused him of sexual abuse, according to the court. He declined to speak with police and requested a lawyer after being informed of his rights. He was placed in a jail cell while waiting for a bond hearing. A police informant who worked with cops in setting up and reporting prison drug transactions was also in the cell.

The informant told his handler shortly after the defendant was placed in the cell that he said he was facing sex crime charges and wanted to hire a hitman to kill the family member who accused him of abuse and the primary witness against him. The handler, who was not aware of the charges against the defendant, asked the informant to get more information on his intended targets. Following conversations with the informant and the handler, the police officer investigating the sex crime charges asked the informant not to seek additional information related to the charges. The cops did, however, ask the informant to present himself as “somewhat of a pedophile” to gain the defendant’s trust. They devised a scheme for the informant to offer to get the defendant in touch with a hitman.

Continue reading

Intent is a central part of many criminal cases in Florida, including those related to sex crimes. The trouble is that it can be tough to get inside a person’s head and determine what exactly he or she was thinking at a particular time. That is why cases such as these often revolve around communications evidence–emails, text messages, phone calls, and the like–to establish intent. A recent case out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit involving alleged sex crimes in Central Florida is a good example of how judges view that evidence.

new emailD.W. was arrested and charged with two counts of attempting to induce a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity back in 2015. Both of the charges stemmed from encounters with an undercover FBI agent who D.W. believed was offering to arrange for him to have sex with the man’s (fictional) daughter. D.W. responded to a Craigslist ad posted by a father and daughter seeking a sexual encounter north of Orlando. The undercover officer (going by the initials B.B.) responded to D.W.’s email and claimed that he was a 50-year-old man who was willing to arrange sex with his 12-year-old daughter. D.W. agreed to pay $40 for oral sex and asked to meet immediately, but B.B. told him that they had a prior engagement.

Three months later, D.W. responded to a similar post seeking to arrange sex with a 12-year-old girl. He was arrested after agreeing to pay for oral sex with the girl and arriving at a suggested meeting place. In total, D.W. sent 88 messages to the undercover officer in relation to the two internet posts. He was convicted on both counts and sentenced to roughly 18 years in prison.

Continue reading