Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys recognize the seriousness of charges such as these, as the legal system – both state and federal – views child prostitution as a form of modern-day slavery, and the penalties are severe.
Charges of child sex trafficking can be brought in either state or federal court. Florida Statute 787.06 addresses the issue of child sex trafficking.
The statute says that a person involved in the commercial sexual activity of a child under the age of 18 commits a first-degree felony. That’s on par with a charge of murder, and is punishable by up to 30 years in prison. If circumstances are aggravated, it could mean a life sentence. If the alleged victim is under the age of 15, it is considered a life felony, which means it’s either a life sentence or a minimum 25 years in prison, followed by a lifetime of parole.
It’s important to note that the statute makes it clear that as long as the defendant had a “reasonable opportunity to observe” the alleged victim, the state does not have to prove that the defendant knew that he or she was underage.
The federal government as well has a number of provisions addressing human trafficking, including Title 18 of the U.S. Code, Section 1584, which makes it a crime to force a person to work against his or her well, whether by force threat of force or legal coercion.
In this case, the 49-year-old defendant was tried in federal court. Taking the stand in his own defense, he testified that the young girls he took in to his Fort Lauderdale home were runaways, ages 12 to 16, and that he was helping them. He said he provided them with food, shelter and occasionally money. He said they sometimes babysat his own 7-year-old daughter, and he denied ever having sex with them or accepting money from anyone else for this purpose.
However, six of the girls also testified to the contrary. They told the jury that “customers” would pay a “rental fee” at the home in order to have sex with a girl of their choosing.
Ultimately, it came down to who the jury believed.
These can be challenging cases to defend, given the fact that prosecution teams tend to spend a great deal of time and resources preparing for them, as they usually are higher profile. What this means is you can’t afford not to invest in an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has had previous success in defending those accused of serious sex crimes in Fort Lauderdale.
We may be able to argue that no enslavement or coercion was taking place. We may be able to argue that the actual age of the individuals at the time of the alleged crimes was over 18. We may also be able to show that you may not have been as central of a figure in the operation as the prosecution alleges.
Of course, it will all depend on the individual circumstances of your case. But protecting your reputation in public while fighting the charges in court is the best course of action.
If you are charged with a crime in Fort Lauderdale, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.
Fort Lauderdale child sex-trafficking trial under way, Oct. 23, 2012, By Jon Burstein, Sun Sentinel
Fort Lauderdale man pimped underage girls, jury finds, Oct. 30, 2012, By Jon Burstein, Sun Sentinel
More Blog Entries:
Florida Child Abuse Statute, Broad Definitions & Overzealous DCF Workers, Oct. 28, 2012, Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog