Articles Posted in Computer Sex Crimes

Technological enhancements give police officers stronger tools to investigate Florida crimes, track suspects and gather evidence. They also raise new questions about protections against unlawful searches and seizures, as a recent case out of Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal makes clear.Defendant was charged with a wide variety of Florida criminal offenses, including sexual battery and possession of child pornography, following an investigation by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Police officers traced an internet protocol address used to download child pornography to a home in the county. When they searched the home, the officers found that none of the computers in the house that were connected to a home Wi-Fi network had been used to download illicit materials.

They also noticed that the Wi-Fi network wasn’t protected, and could therefore potentially be accessed by others outside of the home. So the cops, with the homeowner’s permission, set up a computer in the home that would allow them to remotely access and monitor the Wi-Fi network. They found the local IP address and a separate MAC address for a computer that was accessing the Wi-Fi network and using it to download pornography. The officers then used a Yagi antenna—a highly directional and shortwave antenna—to determine that the computer was inside Defendant’s motorhome. The officers obtained a warrant to search the home, where they located the computer. Defendant was convicted and sentenced to consecutive life sentences.

Continue reading

Witness evidence is often key in Florida sex crime cases. In a recent case out of Florida’s First District Court of Appeal, the court examined some of the common legal questions that come up related to witness credibility.The defendant was charged with sexual battery on a victim less than 12 years old. The charge stemmed from an incident in which he allegedly molested a family friend. The court said the defendant was close with the victim’s family and often visited her home. He told a judge that on the morning in question, he arrived at the home high on drugs and lay down next to the victim in the living room. The victim’s father testified that he entered the living room and saw the victim with the defendant’s penis in her mouth.

The defendant told the judge that he fell asleep on the couch and woke up to find that the victim was performing oral sex on him. He said the victim’s father walked in just as he woke up. The victim gave a different account of the incident. She told the judge that the defendant woke her up, grabbed her by the head, and forced her to put his penis in her mouth. But the victim told her mother only that her father walked into the room and saw the victim with the defendant’s penis in her mouth. She didn’t tell her mother that the defendant forced himself on her. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. The jury returned the verdict in 12 minutes.

Continue reading

It is important for anyone charged with a crime in Florida to understand that prosecutors at all times bear the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that they committed the crime with which they are charged. That means establishing each and every legal element of the specific crime, as Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal recently explained.

A defendant was charged with two counts of using a computer to commit lewd or lascivious exhibition, which in Florida is a second-degree felony. Prosecutors alleged that the defendant sent several text messages to an unidentified 12-year-old girl. The victim asked him to stop contacting her, but prosecutors said he responded by sending the girl several sexually explicit messages. The content of those messages, according to the court, showed that he was aware of the girl’s age at the time, the court said. He was convicted following a jury trial.The defendant later appealed the decision, arguing that prosecutors failed to prove all of the legal elements of the specific crime with which he was charged. The Second District agreed. The appeals court explained that Florida law defines the crime of using a computer to commit lewd or lascivious exhibition to include the “intentional exposure of the genitals in a lewd or lascivious manner . . . live over a computer online service, Internet service, or local bulletin board service.” Prosecutors also have to prove that the person charged knew or had reason to believe that the exhibition would be viewed by a person under the age of 16.

Continue reading