Attorney Analyzes Traveling to Meet a Minor on To Catch a Predator
November 23, 2015
In the state of Florida, it is illegal for an individual to travel to meet a minor for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity. Traveling to meet a minor became well-known in Florida when the To Catch a Predator television show arrived in the state to film individuals who allegedly intended to meet underage girls. According to the premise of the show, individuals from the show posed as an underage girl, hanging out in various chat rooms and engaging in dialogue with older men. These men would send sexually explicit messages and photos to the supposed child and would outline in graphic detail what they would plan to do to the child when they met. The men would then arrange a meeting.
As part of the show, producer and host Chris Hansen arranged with local Florida law enforcement to wait at the scene to arrest the suspects. Then meetings were arranged at a house. The suspect would arrive at the home, expecting to spend time with the minor. A decoy (an adult female who looks younger) would be waiting at the house and would engage in dialogue, pretending to be the minor from the Internet conversations. The decoy would lead the suspect into a room and then walk off. While the suspect waited for her to return, Chris Hansen would walk in.
Chris Hansen would then question the suspect on his intent. As the suspect invariably denied coming to the home to sleep with the minor, Chris Hansen would pull out a transcript of the chat logs, highlighting certain incriminating statements made by the suspect. Chris Hansen would always tell the men they were free to leave, and as they walked out of the home breathing a sigh of relief, the local Florida police would descend on them and arrest them before the next man would arrive.
In the state of Florida, the statute for traveling to meet a minor states that the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused: (1) used electronic communication to solicit or seduce a person believed to be underage into participating in sexual activity, and (2) traveled through, in, or out of the state of Florida in order to meet the child for sexual activity.
Breaking this down: the seduction must occur in an electronic format. It does not include speaking to a minor face-to-face or via written letter. The law was directed at individuals who were finding minors on the Internet and contacting them without their parents knowing. Also, it does not matter if the minor is not in fact a minor. What the television show To Catch a Predator did with using adults to engage in a conversation and a decoy at the home is perfectly permissible under the statute. This allows leeway for law enforcement to conduct sting operations by posing as minors online. In addition, the intent behind this statute is that sexual activity will occur. If there is no evidence that the suspect intends to lure or entice the minor into engaging in sexual activity, the prosecutor will be unable to prove the case. Finally, to meet the traveling requirement, only the most miniscule amount of travel is required. If you have to leave your house to meet the minor, even if you only walk a block, you have met this element.
Fight Traveling to Meet a Minor Charges with an Intelligent and Savvy Destin Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you were charged with traveling to meet a minor in Destin, there are a variety of defenses available to you. Consult with Stephen G. Cobb, an experienced Destin criminal defense attorney, to learn more about your options. Call (850) 423-0035 now.
Cobb Law Firm
1992 Lewis Turner Blvd, Suite 101-B
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547