Law enforcement agencies routinely band together and set up sting operations to target adults seeking out minors for sex. All of the communication between the defendant and the undercover officer is recorded and transcribed. If you were caught up in such a sting, you are looking at a serious felony charge. To give yourself the best chance of staying out of prison, you need experienced Crestview criminal defense lawyers on your side.
My name is Tim Flaherty. I’ve been a defense attorney for traveling to meet a minor in Crestview and throughout Okaloosa County since 2001. Brandy Merrifield is my partner. We would be glad to help you, so give us a call at (850) 398-8098. No matter what you are accused of, we won’t judge you, we’ll defend you.
What does the State have to prove with a charge of Traveling to Meet a Minor for Sexual Activity in Crestview?
Florida Statute 847.0135 outlines the elements required to prove the charge of Traveling to Meet a Minor as follows:
“any person who travels any distance for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity with a child after using a computer online service, internet service, local bulletin service, or any other device capable of electronic communication to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice a child or another person believed by the person to be a child, to engage in unlawful sexual conduct with a child.”
What does this mean? Quite simply, if you talk to a minor, or a person you believe to be a minor, and you solicit them for sex, and then travel any distance to meet them for sex, you can be charged with Traveling to Meet a Minor.
It also doesn’t matter if you turned around before reaching your destination. Technically, the crime was committed as soon as you started traveling. It is irrelevant under the law that you didn’t actually travel the entire distance. However, sometimes that can be a mitigating factor in sentencing if the person abandoned their plan before reaching the meeting location.
What is the penalty for Traveling to Meet a Minor in Crestview?
Traveling to Meet a Minor is a second degree felony with a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. It is also common to be charged with the separate offense of Soliciting a Child for Sex Using a Computer. That charge has a 5 year maximum, so if the two charges are brought together, you face up to 20 years in prison.
The Florida Punishment Code Scoresheet calculates the minimum sentence you face. Traveling to Meet a Minor is a Level 7 offense with 56 points. The sentence is calculated as follows:
56 points – 28 = 28. 28 x 0.75 = 21 months in prison as a minimum sentence.
If you are convicted of Traveling to Meet a Minor, you will also be designated a sexual offender for the rest of your life.
How will an attorney defend me if I am accused of Traveling to Meet a Minor in Crestview?
Before getting into any specifics, let me just say one thing. After many years of defending sex cases and serious felonies throughout Crestview and Okaloosa County, we have learned three very important lessons:
- Do not talk to the police without your attorney present. This is the most important advice we can give you.
- No case is hopeless. Every case can be won, or at least mitigated, with the right strategy and the right defense team.
- Every client, no matter what he or she is accused of, is worth fighting for.
Every defense starts with a careful review of the State’s case. We will review the transcripts of any recorded communications. As we do that, we will be thinking about a couple different things:
- Did the police entrap you into committing this crime?
- Did the undercover officer clearly identify themselves as a minor?
- Was there communication about actually having sex, or was it just a general conversation about sex? There is a fine line between the two, but it could make a big difference.
- Did you travel all the way to the location, or did you turn around?
- When you were arrested, did you have any incriminating items in your car? Things like condoms, sex toys, drugs, or alcohol can make the case a lot tougher.
Whether the answers help you or hurt you, we need to know. We can’t start creating a defense strategy until we understand how strong the State’s case is.
We will take depositions of the State’s witnesses. Usually, in a Traveling to Meet a Minor case, that means the undercover officer and the other officers involved in the sting operation. We will use the depositions to poke holes in the State’s case and develop lines of attack for trial.
While we are preparing your case for trial, we will also be talking with the prosecutor to see if a negotiated plea bargain can be agreed on. We will talk about your different options., but it will always be your decision whether to accept a plea offer or go to trial. Our job is to make sure you have all the information so that you can make an informed decision.
Contact a Crestview Sex Crimes Attorney
If you or a loved one have been charged Traveling to Meet a Minor or any other sex crime in Crestview, call Flaherty & Merrifield today at (850) 398-8098 for a free consultation.