Articles Posted in Sexting

It’s the type of case that our South Florida criminal defense attorneys are certainly familiar with: a pastor is arrested and charged with the crime of child molestation. In recent years, these types of stories have filled newspapers, airwaves, dinner table discussions.
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Nevertheless, the rise in accusations, charges and convictions does not mean that all indictments are warranted; the burden of proof remains on the prosecution, and when there is not ample evidence, the accused cannot be found guilty of having committed a crime.

This was the case of Jeffrey London, a Fort Lauderdale youth pastor who was found not guilty by a jury of his peers in Fort Lauderdale las week. After a trial filled with graphic and heartbreaking testimony (not necessarily to be confused with factual recollections) of lewd text message exchanges and inappropriate touching, London was acquitted of the charges against him, reinforcing the sacred notion that a defendant should be assumed innocent until/unless proven guilty.
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A funeral director from West Palm Beach was recently arrested and charged with obscene communication after allegedly using a computer to set up a meeting with an agent posing as a 15-year-old boy, The Palm Beach Post reports.

Facing West Palm Beach sex crimes can not only lead to the possibility of job loss, problems in the community and issues with family and friends, but it can result in years of prison time, if convicted.
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Our West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyers realize that the Internet invites criminal activity and that local law enforcement continues attempting to bring charges against citizens who may violate the law. But we also recognize that being charged with a sex crime is a serious thing that can derail a person’s life.

There are obvious social consequences to being arrested for any charge, but sex crimes are among the most despised in any community. Even a misunderstanding with another person can lead to a person facing a sex crime. And what police often don’t take into consideration is that an arrest can sometimes do as much damage in the public eye as a conviction.

Many companies will fire a person if he or she gets arrested, let alone convicted. But often, showing that a person isn’t guilty of the charge through an acquittal at trial can go a long way toward repairing the damage.

In this case, according to the newspaper, police said the 49-year-old man was on a social networking site when he allegedly told a person he thought was a 15-year-old boy he would buy him a “foot long hot dog” and said they should meet at the movies to “kiss” and “cuddle.”

According to the newspaper account, officers disguised as the teen chatted with the man, starting in November and throughout December and January. The man allegedly told the “boy” he preferred boys even younger than 15. He asked whether he was “out” to his family.

After having sent a shirtless picture to the “boy,” the two set up a meeting spot recently and when the man showed up, detectives, not a teen, were there to greet him. The newspaper reports that the man admitted to doing the chatting and admitted it was wrong.

What’s important to note in cases like this is not to make any admissions or statements to police. When they conduct long-term investigations about computer-based crimes, they often have amassed lots of evidence that can be used against the suspect. Talking to the detectives can hurt chances for an acquittal, as it will be used against the suspect in court.

The best course of action is to call an experienced West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. He or she can assess the situation and figure out what the best course of action may be moving forward.

These computer-based sex crimes often are technical and the evidence may be more about the computer than the sex. That’s why an experienced lawyer — who has prosecuted these cases and worked with police on them — should be used to combat the charges.
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For the first time in a while, Florida lawmakers have done the smart thing by reducing the sentencing guidelines for a very concerning offense– sexting.

Under the original law, teens could be convicted and punished under the state’s child pornography laws. They could also have been required to register as sexual offenders for sending or receiving nude photos of underage girlfriends, boyfriends or classmates.
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Under the new law, which went into effect Oct. 1, convicted teenagers will be punished with a non-criminal violation for a first offense, a misdemeanor for a second offense, and a felony for three-time offenders, the Sun Sentinel reports.

Sexting in West Palm Beach and nationwide has become a new trend among teenagers because of the availability of cameras on cell phones and the instant access to sending and receiving photos. Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers have followed this trend and the Florida Legislature’s pathetic response to it.

Sadly, many teens were branded as sex offenders for simply receiving a photo of a naked person, whether it was the teens’ plan to receive or not. These young people were even required to register as sex offenders in state and national registry databases, which are available online for all to see. Many teens lost an opportunity to attend college, earn scholarships or have any kind of positive future after being convicted of a felony, sent to prison and labeled a sex offender.

The Legislature over-reacted with the original penalties, not taking into account that many teens have poor decision-making skills. We are hopeful there is some help for those who have already been convicted and labeled sexual offenders under the initial poorly thought-out law.

Here’s a breakdown of the new penalties for teens caught sexting:

First offense: non-criminal violation, like a ticket, punishable by eight hours of community service or a $60 fine.
Second offense: A first-degree misdemeanor, punishable with up to a year in jail, fines and fees, and possible community service.
Third offense: A third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

Obviously, a third offense can be quite terrifying. Even a second-offense should be taken quite seriously by a teen who has many years ahead of him or her. Thankfully, lawmakers have made a first offense a wake-up call instead of a permanent scar on a person’s criminal history record.

These charges must be aggressively defended because even a first mark can be devastating, and second or third alleged offense is even worse.

The criminal justice system is meant to punish, not rehabilitate. Prosecutors and police must realize that teens make mistakes — as they themselves probably did when they were young — and a criminal record isn’t always the right move.

A West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney knows that and fights with everything available to ensure a permanent mark doesn’t ruin a bright future. Kids do dumb things and they should be punished — by their parents. Not every case deserves a criminal record. It’s a good thing that Florida lawmakers finally got that right.
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FL_sexting.jpgHere in Florida, teens who send nude photos of themselves or others via mobile phone or email can be prosecuted under state law with child pornography felony charges. Those found guilty can be forced to register as a sex offender for the next several decades. However, a proposed bill would provide more lenient penalties for minors accused of sexting.

A first-time offense would have a $25 fine or eight hours of community service. The second teen sexting offense would be a first-degree misdemeanor. Only after the fourth offense in three years would it be considered a felony offense.

The bill was inspired by a 2007 case involving an 18-year-old male in Orlando who was found guilty of child pornography and wound up on Florida’s sex offender registry for 25 years. Despite this, the bill would only help those under age 18.

Source: Florida considering reducing penalties for teen “sexting”, Examiner.com, July 23, 2010 Continue reading

texting.jpgUntil recently, nobody had heard the term “sexting.” But this activity, meaning texting sexual photos or messages, can have an all too real impact on teens. Take 20-year-old Phillip Alpert, who was an 18-year-old living in Florida when he forwarded photos of his ex-girlfriend to get her attention.

Alpert was arrested on child-pornography charges, given five years’ probation, and forced to register as a sex offender. He is also required to attend weekly sex-offender re-education classes for the duration of his probation. In sexting cases between two underage parties, the teens can feel like both perpetrator and victim, and the consequences can be life-altering, as Alpert’s case demonstrates.

Alpert’s lawyer took on the case as a pro bono project, partly to educate others on the serious consequences of sexting.

Source: Sexting Leads To Teen Having To Register As A Sex Offender, MTV.com, February 11, 2010 Continue reading

Florida_sexting_crime.jpgSexting, sending sexually explicit photos via text message, is a growing problem among Florida teens. The results can be embarrassing to teen girls, but it can also result in criminal charges for both the sender and the recipient.

Under Florida law, the each image is a felony punishable by up to five years behind bars. Both sexes are equally culpable under the law. Sexting is considered a child pornography case, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office detective. A 2007 Orlando case involving an 18-year-old boy and his 16-year-old girlfriend brought the issue to the attention of Florida law enforcement officials. The boy emailed nude photos of his girlfriend to people out of revenge and is now listed on the state sex-offender registry.

Prosecutors in the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office say that the office is drafting a policy to address sexting, since it has become such a widespread problem. Miami-Dade County schools hopes to have an anti-sexting initiative in place by the time school starts in August.

Sexting: Both sender and receiver can face charges, Sun Sentinel, July 27, 2009 Continue reading

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