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F.S. 847.0135 - Computer Pornography

Florida child pornography laws are among the harshest on the books. F.S. 847.0135 is aimed specifically at computer pornography involving minors, as well as the use of electronic devices to engage with a child (or person believed to be a child) or travel to meet a child for unlawful sexual conduct. 

F.S. 847.0135 is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. 

As Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys, it’s important to point out that this Florida criminal statute allows each image or transmission to be charged as a separate offense. Defendants can face dozens of counts under F.S. 847.0135 for this reason. 

Someone convicted on multiple counts of computer pornography in Florida could be sentenced to serve time consecutively on each charge, meaning sentences are served one right after the other. This differs from concurrent sentencing, wherein a defendant will serve time for several charges all at once. Example: If you’re convicted on three counts of this charge and the judge imposes the maximum penalty (five years) to be served consecutively, that’s 15 years in prison. However, if you're sentenced to concurrent terms, that’s 5 years. Having a skilled criminal defense lawyer advocating on your behalf can make a huge difference at all phases of your case – including sentencing. So while our first objective is always going to be to have our client walk free, it’s important to underscore that even if there’s substantial evidence against you, there are still many ways a good lawyer can help. 

Computer Pornography: When Is It a Crime in Florida?

Computer pornography that involves and depicts only consenting adults (over the age of 18) is not illegal in Florida. 

However, as outlined in F.S. 847.011 (also known as the “Computer Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act”), it becomes a crime when it involves:

  • Any exchange one engages in for the purpose of facilitating, encouraging, offering, or soliciting sexual conduct of or with any minor or the visual depiction of such conduct. If an undercover operative or law enforcement officer was posing as a child online, the defendant can’t use this as a defense to argue they weren’t actually engaging with a minor. 
  • Using the internet or any online service to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice (or attempt to do any of those things) a child, another person believed to be a child, or a child’s parent/guardian to commit an unlawful sexual act with a child. 

This is a third-degree felony. However, an aggravating factor that can bump it up to a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, is if a person engages in this prohibited conduct AND misrepresents his or her age. So for example, if a person is engaging with someone who is (or they believe to be) a 14-year-old child and they pretend to be a 15-year-old, that’s considered a much more serious offense. And again, it doesn’t matter if the person on the other end isn’t actually a child. If the defendant believes them to be under 18, that’s all that matters.

It’s also a second-degree felony in Florida to travel to meet a minor for the purpose of engaging in unlawful sexual conduct after using a computer, the internet, or any electronic device to solicit, lure, or entice that child or their parent/guardian. This is outlined in F.S. 847.011(4). 

If you go live over a computer or internet service to intentionally masterbate, expose your genitals in a lewd or lascivious way or commit other sexual acts (even if they don’t involve physical or sexual contact with a victim) AND you know or have reason to believe that transmission is going to be viewed by someone under the age of 16, it’s a felony. It’s called lewd or lascivious exhibition using a computer. If you’re 18 or older, it’s a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. 

Minors aren’t exempt under this statute. If you’re under 18, you can be charged as an adult and it’s a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Because it is increasingly common for teens to exchange sexually explicit communications with each other (which may or may not include images or videos), it is imperative for parents to immediately contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer. You may want your child to learn a lesson from their mistake, but a felony sex offense conviction that stays on their permanent record and the possibility of a 5-year prison sentence isn’t the way to teach it. 

Lastly, owners or operators of computer services can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor (up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine) for knowingly permitting subscribers to use their platform to commit the crimes outlined in F.S. 847.011.

Possibility of Federal Charges 

One of the most compelling features of the internet is its ability to connect people from all over the world. But when you’re accused of an internet crime, this aspect has the potential to exacerbate the seriousness of the allegations. You don’t necessarily have to physically cross state lines in order to commit a crime against a minor in another state. If you are accused of computer pornography involving a child across state lines OR if you travel across state lines to  meet with a minor for purposes outlined in the statute, you could be facing federal charges, which are usually more serious.

18 U.S.C. 2252 is the United State federal statute on child pornography. For a first offense, you face a minimum (not a maximum) of 5 years in prison and a maximum of 15 years in prison. For any subsequent offense, you face a minimum of 5 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years in prison. 

But even if you are prosecuted by the State of Florida, you could be charged in another state too. 
If you have been arrested for violating Florida’s computer pornography statute, contact the Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (954) 761-4011.

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