Authorities Arrest 5 in Osceola Child Sex Sting

During the course of a three day trial this week defending a client accused of traveling to meet a minor, use of a computer to solicit a minor for sexual activity, and attempted lewd and lascivious battery I was struck by the inequity of the penalties and unavailability of legitimate defenses for some of these crimes.

First and foremost is the unavailability of the defense of “legal impossibility” in Florida. What this means in the context of Sex stings like the one that just occurred in Osceola county, is that an undercover officer can pose as a minor, and a person can be charged with attempting to have sex with a child, even though there never was a child only a police officer. The penalty upon conviction is up to 5 years in prison, sex offender probation, and registration as a sex offender for life on Florida’s sex offender registry. The traveling crime is complete the minute the accused stops typing and walks out the front door toward where the minor (police officer) says he is waiting. This is a second degree felony with up to 15 years in prison and lifetime registration on the sex offender registry in Florida. An accused can change his mind and not end up at the house and still be convicted of this crime.

Children should be protected from the horrible atrocities of sexual abuse and molestation. But too often lately the sex sting is catching only marginally culpable offenders, denying them legitimate defenses and punishing them far beyond reason for their actual offense. At least there are criminal defense lawyers like me who fight to defend the wrongfully accused and to seek balance and equity of punishment when and if necessary.