Computer Crimes Against Children  

Many crimes against children committed by using a computer are set out in Florida Statute Section 847.0135. The statute is known as the “Computer Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act.” The Act took effect on July 1, 2009. Crimes under this act include: 

  • traveling to meet a minor; 
  • computer pornography; 
  • using a computer service for unlawful sexual conduct with a child; or
  • using a computer for lewd or lascivious exhibition.

Florida Statute Section 847.0135(6) provides that a person is subject to prosecution in the State of Florida for any conduct proscribed by this section which the person engages in, while either within or outside of Florida, if by such conduct the person commits a violation of this section involving a child, a child's guardian, or another person believed by the person to be a child or a child's guardian. 

Under 847.0135, the prosecution of any person for an offense under 847.0135 shall not prohibit prosecution of that person in Florida or another jurisdiction for a violation of any law of this state, including a law providing for greater penalties than prescribed in this section or any other crime punishing the sexual performance or the sexual exploitation of children.

The statute also applies to the owners or operators of computer services. Under 847.0135(6), it is unlawful for any owner or operator of a computer online service, Internet service, or local bulletin board service knowingly to permit a subscriber to use the service to commit a violation of this section. Any person who violates this section commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable by a fine not exceeding $2,000.

Attorneys for Computer Crimes Against Children in Broward County, FL

If you were charged with a crime against a minor child involving the use of a computer, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

We represent clients charged with a variety of serious misdemeanor and felony offenses that are sexually motivated including computer pornography, using a computer for lewd or lascivious exhibition, using a computer service for unlawful sexual conduct with a child, and traveling to meet a minor child. 

We also represent the owners and operators of computer services including the providers of internet service or local bulletin board service who are accused of knowingly permitting a subscriber to use the service to commit a violation of the statutes.

With offices in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, our criminal defense attorneys represent clients in Broward County, Palm Beach County, and the surrounding areas. Call (954) 716-8538 today to discuss your case either in the office or over the phone.


Traveling to Meet a Minor in Florida

Florida Statute Section 847.0135(4) applies to any person who travels to meet a minor child for an unlawful act by traveling any distance either within Florida, to Florida, or from Florida. The crime of "Traveling to Meet a Minor" is charged as a 2nd degree felony punishable by up to fifteen years in prison. The crime is also ranked as a level 7 offense on the sentencing scoresheet.

The statute requires that the travel is by any means for the purpose of engaging in any illegal act described in chapter 794, chapter 800, or chapter 827, or to otherwise engage in other unlawful sexual conduct with a child or with another person believed by the person to be a child after using a computer online service, Internet service, local bulletin board service, or any other device capable of electronic data storage or transmission.  

The prosecution must prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the travel is for one or more of the following purposes:

  • to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice or attempt to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice a child or another person believed by the person to be a child, to engage in any illegal act described in chapter 794, chapter 800, or chapter 827, or to otherwise engage in other unlawful sexual conduct with a child; or
  • to solicit, lure, or entice or attempt to solicit, lure, or entice a parent, legal guardian, or custodian of a child or a person believed to be a parent, legal guardian, or custodian of a child to consent to the participation of such child in any act described in chapter 794, chapter 800, or chapter 827, or to otherwise engage in any sexual conduct. 

Computer Pornography in Florida

Florida Statute Section 847.0135 also prohibits the possession and distribution of computer pornography.  Possession of computer pornography under Section 847.0135(2), F.S., is a 3rd degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. The offense is classified as a level 6 offense. 

Many of these investigations begin with an undercover operative or law enforcement officer posing as a child or a person who wants to expose a child to harm. The Florida legislature added language to the statute to explain that when an undercover operative or a law enforcement officer is involved in the detection and investigation of computer pornography, that fact shall not constitute a defense to a prosecution for this crime. 

Under 847.0135(2), the computer pornography applies to any person who does the following: 

  • Knowingly compiles, enters into, or transmits by use of computer;
  • Makes, prints, publishes, or reproduces by other computerized means;
  • Knowingly causes or allows to be entered into or transmitted by use of computer; or
  • Buys, sells, receives, exchanges, or disseminates, any notice, statement, or advertisement of any minor's name, telephone number, place of residence, physical characteristics, or other descriptive or identifying information for purposes of facilitating, encouraging, offering, or soliciting sexual conduct of or with any minor, or the visual depiction of such conduct. 

Using a Computer Service for Unlawful Sexual Conduct with a Child 

Under 847.0135(3), certain uses of computer services or devices are prohibited under Florida law.  The law prohibits any person from knowingly using a computer online service, Internet service, local bulletin board service, or any other device capable of electronic data storage or transmission to do any of the following:

  • Seduce, solicit, lure, or entice, or attempt to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice, a child or another person believed by the person to be a child, to commit any illegal act described in chapter 794, chapter 800, or chapter 827, or to otherwise engage in any unlawful sexual conduct with a child or with another person believed by the person to be a child; or
  • Solicit, lure, or entice, or attempt to solicit, lure, or entice a parent, legal guardian, or custodian of a child or a person believed to be a parent, legal guardian, or custodian of a child to consent to the participation of such child in any act described in chapter 794, chapter 800, or chapter 827, or to otherwise engage in any sexual conduct. 

Each separate use of a computer online service, Internet service, local bulletin board service, or any other device capable of electronic data storage or transmission wherein an offense described in this section is committed may be charged as a separate offense.

Under Section 847.0135(3), F.S., using a computer to solicit, lure, entice, etc. a child to commit a sex act or a parent to consent to a child's participation in a sex act is a 3rd degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. The offense is classified with a level 7 ranking for purposes of the sentencing scoresheet. 

Under Section 847.0135(3), F.S. , using a computer to solicit, lure, entice, etc. a child to commit a sex act or a parent to consent to a child's participation in a sex act (while misrepresenting one's age) is a 2nd degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in Florida State Prison. The offense is also ranked as a level 7 offense for purposes of the sentencing scoresheet.


Using a Computer for Lewd or Lascivious Exhibition

Under 847.0135(5), the prohibited computer transmissions including the following:

  • Intentionally masturbating;
  • Intentionally exposing the genitals in a lewd or lascivious manner; or
  • Intentionally commits any other sexual act that does not involve actual physical or sexual contact with the victim, including, but not limited to, sadomasochistic abuse, sexual bestiality, or the simulation of any act involving sexual activity live over a computer online service, Internet service, or local bulletin board service. 

The statute requires that the defendant either knows, should know or has reason to believe that the transmission is viewed on a computer or television monitor by a victim who is less than 16 years of age, then the person can also be charged with lewd or lascivious exhibition

The fact that an undercover operative or law enforcement officer was involved in the detection and investigation of an offense under this subsection shall not constitute a defense to a prosecution under this subsection.

The penalties for using a computer for lewd or lascivious exhibition depend on the age of the offender. Those penalties include:

  • An offender 18 years of age or older who commits a lewd or lascivious exhibition using a computer commits a felony of the second degree; and
  • An offender less than 18 years of age who commits a lewd or lascivious exhibition using a computer commits a felony of the third degree.

Under Section 847.0135(5), F.S., committing certain sex acts live over computer knowing the acts are being viewed by the victim under 16 when the offender is 18 years old or older is a 2nd degree felony punishable by up to fifteen years in prison as a level 5 offense.

Under Section 847.0135(5), F.S., committing certain sex acts live over computer knowing the acts are being viewed by a victim under 16 when the offender is under 18 is classified as a 3rd degree felony and a level 4 offense.

A mother's breastfeeding of her baby does not under any circumstance constitute a violation of this subsection as provided in Florida Statute 847.0135(5)(d).


Owners of Computer Services who Permit Computer Crimes Against Children

The statute also applies to the owners or operators of computer services. Under 847.0135(6), it is unlawful for any owner or operator of a computer online service, Internet service, or local bulletin board service knowingly to permit a subscriber to use the service to commit a violation of this section. 

Any person who violates this section commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable by a fine not exceeding $2,000.


Finding a Lawyer for Computer Crimes against Children

If you were charged committing a computer crime against a minor child, including traveling to meet a minor under section 847.0135(4)(b), Florida Statutes, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Meltzer & Bell, P.A. with offices in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

We represent clients throughout Fort Lauderdale in Broward County and in West Palm Beach in Broward County, FL. Call today for a free consultation to discuss your case. Call (954) 716-8538 today. 


This article was last updated on Friday, October 28, 2016.

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