Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, sex crimes have been on the rise. Among these are sex crimes that occur over the internet. While these crimes may not necessarily be as violent as sexual assault, they can still carry steep penalties.
Below, a sex crime defense attorney in Clearwater with Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan discusses the most common internet sex crimes and their penalties, as well as what you should do if you are being accused of committing a sex crime online.
Related: 4 Types of Sex Crimes
What Are the Top 3 Most Common Internet Sex Crimes and Their Penalties?
The top three most common sex crimes and their penalties include:
- Underage Sexting: The technical definition of sexting is the transmission of illicit messages, nude photos or videos, or sexually explicit images or videos by cell phone or computer. While sexting is not illegal among consenting adults, Florida law defines illegal sexting as sexting to, between, or by a minor. Even if two minors (defined as anyone below 18 years of age) are consenting to send each other images, it is illegal and may even qualify as child pornography. This becomes especially problematic if another minor (or adult) transmits the images to a third party. Penalties for sexting include fines, community service, and prison time. Sexting between an adult and a minor is also a felony that carries much more serious penalties and fines.
- Solicitation: Solicitation for sex can be further classified as: soliciting a minor for sex over the internet OR solicitation of prostitution using the internet. Florida Statute §847.0135(3) states that a person may be charged with soliciting a minor for unlawful sex if they utilize an Internet service, electronic device, or online service for enticing, luring, soliciting, or seducing the minor to start engaging with them in illegal sexual relations. Solicitation of a Minor using the Internet is a serious charge and a conviction for such an offense would result in sex offender registration requirements, sex offender counseling, restrictions on using the Internet or computers, sex offender counseling, and likely prison time. Solicitation of prostitution is committed when a person solicits another person to engage in prostitution — for example, using an online website for prostitution. A solicitation of prostitution charge generally requires screening for sexually transmitted diseases, a $5,000 fine, 100 hours of community service, and possible jail time upon conviction.
- Extortion: Extortion online, sometimes called “sextortion,” is when a person uses sexual images (even if obtained consensually) to blackmail another person for money or something of value. This is often something that occurs with teens or young adults, and it also carries even more serious penalties when the person being extorted is a minor because of child pornography laws. The crime of extortion is a second-degree felony in Florida and is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Related: Is Sexting a Crime in Florida?
What to Do If Accused of a Sex Crime
If you are accused of an online sex crime, it is of the utmost importance that you contact a sex crimes attorney in Clearwater. No matter whether you feel that you were entrapped into committing a sex crime online or were unaware that something you may have done was illegal, you’ll have an opportunity to discuss your possible defenses with a seasoned, experienced attorney.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.