Articles Posted in Sex with Minor

Florida sexual battery cases often focus on intricate legal arguments about whether what the person who is accused of the crime allegedly did qualifies as a crime. Those debates can have significant consequences. They can mean the difference between a conviction or acquittal and determine the type of punishment that a person faces in the event of a conviction. A recent case out of Florida’s Supreme Court, for example, focused on what state lawmakers meant when they included the term “unnatural” in the lewd or lascivious battery law.A defendant was charged with lewd or lascivious battery stemming from an incident in which he allegedly had sex with a female victim between the ages of 12 and 16 years old. At trial, his lawyer asked the judge to instruct the jury that he could instead be convicted of an “unnatural and lascivious act,” a lesser offense that carries a less significant punishment. The judge declined, finding that prosecutors had not alleged that the defendant engaged in “unnatural” conduct. A jury eventually convicted him of lewd or lascivious battery.

The state’s Fourth District Court of Appeal later overturned the conviction, finding that the judge should have instructed the jury on the lesser offense. The appeals court said the allegation that the defendant had sex with a minor qualified as “unnatural” under the law because “such conduct is not in accordance with nature or with normal feelings or behavior and are lustful acts performed with sensual intent on the part of the defendant.”

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In internet sex crime cases, the law puts the burden on prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person committed the specific crime with which he or she has been charged. Trials and evidentiary hearings give prosecutors the chance to put forth the evidence to make that case and for the person charged to pick that case apart and offer defenses. Even if you are ultimately convicted of a crime, you have the right to continue to try to get that conviction vacated or overturned on appeal. A recent case out of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal provides some detail about what is expected of a judge faced with a request to scrap a sex crime conviction.A defendant was charged with two federal sex offenses stemming from allegations that he arranged to pay an undercover officer for sex with a minor. Prosecutors alleged that the defendant used an internet chat room to communicate with the officer, who was posing as the father of a young girl with mental impairments. The defendant allegedly agreed to pay $70 and arranged to meet the undercover officer in a set location with the understanding that the officer would then drive him to the girl to have sex with her. He was arrested when he showed up at the meeting place with condoms and the $70, according to prosecutors.

The defendant was charged with attempting to use the internet to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity and committing that offense while required to register as a sex offender. He pleaded guilty to the first offense and not guilty to the second. He was convicted following a jury trial on the second charge. He later asked a federal judge to scrap his conviction on the first charge, however, saying that he unknowingly pleaded guilty because he did not understand the applicable law and his possible defenses. The judge declined the request without holding a hearing and allowing him to introduce evidence. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit said that might have been a mistake.

The appeals court said the judge wrongly treated the defendant as claiming that he didn’t commit the crime. Instead, the court said he actually argued that he was not made sufficiently aware of the law surrounding the charges against him and the possible defenses he could raise. As a result, the court sent the case back to the trial judge to reconsider the defendant’s request to vacate his conviction.