It is important for anyone charged with a crime in Florida to understand that prosecutors at all times bear the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that they committed the crime with which they are charged. That means establishing each and every legal element of the specific crime, as Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal recently explained.
A defendant was charged with two counts of using a computer to commit lewd or lascivious exhibition, which in Florida is a second-degree felony. Prosecutors alleged that the defendant sent several text messages to an unidentified 12-year-old girl. The victim asked him to stop contacting her, but prosecutors said he responded by sending the girl several sexually explicit messages. The content of those messages, according to the court, showed that he was aware of the girl’s age at the time, the court said. He was convicted following a jury trial.The defendant later appealed the decision, arguing that prosecutors failed to prove all of the legal elements of the specific crime with which he was charged. The Second District agreed. The appeals court explained that Florida law defines the crime of using a computer to commit lewd or lascivious exhibition to include the “intentional exposure of the genitals in a lewd or lascivious manner . . . live over a computer online service, Internet service, or local bulletin board service.” Prosecutors also have to prove that the person charged knew or had reason to believe that the exhibition would be viewed by a person under the age of 16.