Experienced Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers At Your Service!
If you're facing sexting charges in Florida, it's essential to have skilled criminal defense lawyers by your side as your sex crimes case unfolds. The Watson Firm, PLLC, offers a team of dedicated attorneys with in-depth knowledge of Florida's criminal laws and extensive experience in handling sexting cases. Don't navigate the legal process of defending against sexting charges alone. Our sexting lawyers are committed to providing you with personalized attention and a strong defense to achieve the most favorable outcome for your sex crimes case. Whether it's negotiating a plea deal or pursuing a dismissal, our skilled criminal defense attorney team will fight for your rights. Contact The Watson Firm, PLLC, today at (850) 607-2929 or online for a confidential consultation concerning your sexting offense case. Your future deserves professional protection and our respected sexting attorneys are up to the challenge.
What Is Sexting?
In the Digital Age, communication modes have changed drastically, leading to new sets of legal considerations. Among these is "sexting" - the sharing of explicit photographs or videos through electronic means. In Florida, there are specific laws that prohibit sexting under certain circumstances, especially when it involves minors. The Watson Firm, PLLC helps decode these laws and penalties for potential offenders who sext in situations that make this kind of interaction a sex crime.
What Constitutes A Sexting Offense?
According to Florida Statutes Section 847.0141, a minor (someone under the age of 18) commits a sexting offense in two situations.
First of all, when they knowingly send or distribute explicit photos or videos, involving nudity, to another minor. The images or videos sent must be considered harmful to minors as defined by the law.
Secondly, a minor also commits an offense if they knowingly possess explicit photos or videos transmitted or distributed by another minor. However, there are exceptions. It won't be considered an offense if the recipient didn't ask for the material, promptly reported it to an adult or authority figure (like a school official or law enforcement), and didn't distribute it further.
Importantly, if multiple explicit photos or videos are transmitted or received within a 24-hour period, it's classified as a single offense.
Penalties For Sexting Offenses
The Florida statute stipulates different levels of penalties that may be levied in the event of a sexting charge conviction, depending on the frequency of the violations:
These are categorized as non-criminal violations. The minor in question will have to sign a citation and promise to appear in juvenile court when required. However, they can avoid a court appearance by satisfying any of the following within 30 days of receiving the citation:
- Completing community service requirements for at least 8 hours
- Paying a $60 civil penalty
- Participating in a locally-available cyber-safety program
A minor can contest the citation in court but if they are found guilty, the court may order them to fulfill any or all of the above-mentioned penalties.
If a minor commits a sexting offense after having been found guilty of a noncriminal violation for sexting or after having satisfied the penalty imposed for the first offense, the violation is treated as a first-degree misdemeanor. This comes with a more severe punishment, as dictated by Florida Statutes Sections 775.082 or 775.083.
Third-Time (And Subsequent) Offenses
If a minor is found guilty of a sexting offense after already being found guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor for sexting, the new violation escalates to a third-degree felony. This is the most serious level of punishment for a sexting offense.
Failing To Comply And Additional Consequences
Failure to comply with the citation results in the waiver of the minor's right to challenge it. In such cases, the court can impose penalties as stated under the second point above or issue a so-called order to show cause. If the minor is found in contempt, they may face additional penalties, including driver’s license suspension. Notably, the court cannot impose a jail sentence.
Exceptions And Additional Laws
The sexting law does not prevent a minor from being prosecuted under any other Florida law if the explicit photo or video also contains depictions of sexual conduct or excitement. In addition, this law does not shield a minor from being prosecuted for stalking, as per section 784.048.
No Knowledge Or Intent
To commit a sexting offense under Florida law, the minor must knowingly send or distribute, or possess the explicit material. If a defense attorney can demonstrate that the accused minor did not knowingly engage in this behavior, it could be a viable defense.
If a minor received explicit photos or videos without soliciting them, took steps to report the material to an authority figure like a legal guardian, school official, or law enforcement, and didn't distribute the material to others, they cannot be found guilty of the sexting offense.
Lack Of Harmful Material
The explicit material involved must be both nude and harmful to minors under Florida Statutes Section 847.001. If the material doesn't meet this legal definition, a defense may be built on this basis.
Invasion Of Privacy
If a minor's personal device was searched without proper consent or a valid warrant, a defense could argue the evidence was obtained illegally, infringing on the minor's right to privacy.
Mistaken Identity Or False Accusation
In some cases, the accused may not be the individual who actually sent or possessed the explicit material. Digital content can be easily manipulated or misattributed. The defense could argue that the minor is being wrongly accused or is a victim of identity theft.
What Constitutes A Sexting Offense In Florida?
In Florida, a sexting offense is committed by a minor who knowingly sends or distributes explicit photos or videos involving nudity to another minor, which are deemed harmful. The offense also extends to a minor who knowingly possesses such explicit materials sent by another minor, unless they didn't solicit the material, reported it to an authority figure, and didn't further distribute it.
What Happens If A Minor Is Caught Sexting Multiple Times In A Day?
If a minor is caught sexting multiple times within a 24-hour period, it is treated as a single offense according to Florida law.
What Are The Penalties For A First-Time Sexting Offense?
A first-time sexting offense is a noncriminal violation. The minor will be given a citation to appear in juvenile court, or instead, they may opt to complete 8 hours of community service, pay a $60 civil penalty, or participate in a cyber-safety program, if available. The chosen penalty must be completed within 30 days.
What Happens If A Minor Commits A Second Or Subsequent Sexting Offense?
Second-time offenses are considered first-degree misdemeanors, and third-time (or more) offenses are classified as third-degree felonies. Each carries increasingly severe penalties under Florida law.
Can A Minor Face Other Legal Charges If They Are Found Sexting?
Yes, a minor could face additional charges if the explicit photo or video shared or received also includes sexual conduct or excitement. They could also face charges for stalking as per Florida law.
What Happens If A Minor Doesn't Comply With The Citation For A Sexting Offense?
Failure to comply with the citation means the minor forfeits their right to contest it, and the court can impose the mentioned penalties or issue an order to show cause. The court may also suspend the minor's driving license for 30 days but cannot sentence them to jail.
Contact Skilled Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers Today!
If you are facing charges related to sexting in Florida, you need the benefit of an experienced criminal defense lawyer’s focus and efforts to protect your rights and defend your case. The Watson Firm, PLLC client-focused criminal defense attorneys are here to provide you with personalized attention and a strong defense strategy tailored to your unique situation Contact a reputable sexting lawyer at The Watson Firm, PLLC, today by calling (850) 607-2929 or by popping online to schedule a confidential consultation. Let us help you navigate through this difficult time and ensure your rights are protected.