Protection From Sexting: What To Do If You’ve Been Catfished by a Minor

The term “catfished,” coined by a 2007 documentary featuring Nev Schulman, is defined by Miriam Webster as “to lure (someone) or be lured into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona.” Often, we hear the side of the story from the minor who was “catfished” by an older person, but we don’t often hear about the challenges and dangers of being “catfished” by a minor, especially when there are images exchanged during sexting.

In this brief article, sex crime defense attorneys in Tampa with our team at The Rickman Law Firm have a few tips on how to protect yourself from being catfished by a minor, and what to do if you were catfished by a minor and find yourself in possession of explicit photos of them.

Why is Sexting with a Minor Dangerous?

Sexting with a minor can lead to major issues and criminal charges at both the state and federal level because it may be considered child pornography.

In Florida, the age of consent for sexual acts is 18 years old. However, under Florida Statute 943.04354, the “Romeo and Juliet” provision allows a minor who is age 16 or 17 to legally consent to sexual activity with someone between the ages of 16 and 23. But that doesn’t mean teens have free reign to send lewd or sexual images of themselves.

Despite the allowance of older minors to engage in sexual activity with adults under 24, if an adult between 18 and 23 engages in sexting with a minor and receives nude or sexual photos, it can be considered possession of child pornography, thereby entering federal crime territory. Federal law considers child pornography anything below the age of 18, regardless of the age of consent in any given state.

Why does that matter for you if you’ve been catfished or tricked into receiving sexually explicit photos from someone you didn’t know was a minor? If you’ve received photos that were not of the minor, for example if they use photos of someone else stolen off the web, you may be in the clear. But, if you received photos of the minor without realizing or knowing their age, it could be trouble. That’s because the act of even possessing those photos on your device can implicate you in child pornography charges. Further, if the person who catfished you is unhappy that you no longer want to continue a relationship, they may be tempted to report you for the images they themselves sent you. The charge of child pornography is among the most serious a person can face and is a federal felony.

How to Prevent Sexting Charges with a Minor

The first and best protection if you find that you’ve been catfished by a minor and now fear charges related to sexting is to hire a successful criminal defense law firm in Tampa. But, before you are able to get into the situation, you can take a few precautions when becoming romantically involved with someone you met online, including:

  • Asking for a fully clothed photo holding a post-it with a randomly chosen word to prove that they are who they say they are
  • Participating in a video chat together
  • Going an extra step and asking to see their ID via video chat

Remember, if you’re already in an online relationship and fear you may be catfished by a minor, end communication as quickly as possible. Then, if you’ve received incriminating sexts or are facing charges as a result of these messages, contact a sex crime defense attorney in Tampa with The Rickman Law Firm.

For a free consultation with a sex crime defense attorney in Tampa, please contact The Rickman Law Firm today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Penalties for Conviction of Sexual Battery in Florida

It’s been estimated that only around 10% of all reported sex crimes in Florida ever make it to trial, but of that 10%, the number of cases that lead to a conviction is a much higher percentage. For those who are convicted of sex crimes in the state of Florida, the penalties can be detrimental.

In this brief article, a sexual battery lawyer in Tampa with our team at The Rickman Law Firm shares a few of the penalties you might face if convicted of sexual battery in Florida and how to defend yourself if you’re facing these charges.

What is Sexual Battery?

Under Florida law, sexual battery has a broad legal definition. In layman’s terms, sexual battery is what most people would refer to as “rape”. However, under Florida law, the crime covers any offense that is sexual in nature from rape to assault to deliberately and inappropriately touching another person without their consent. In other words, sexual battery is classified as the physical act of making offensive and unwanted contact with a person.

Sexual battery is a felony, and in some cases, depending on the age of the victim and whether or not any injuries were incurred as a result of the sexual battery, it is considered a capital crime and called capital sexual battery.

Penalties for Sexual Battery in Florida

There are a few penalties that all sexual battery charges have in common, these include:

  • Being required to register as a sex offender
  • Fines
  • Imprisonment

What varies between cases is the amount of time for a prison sentence and fines that must be paid.

  • If the victim is 18 or older: Florida uses minimum statutory sentences, with the minimum sentence for sexual battery against a person 18 or older at 34.5 months (nearly 3 years). In this scenario, the maximum sentence is 30 years imprisonment, 30 years of probation and $10,000 in fines.
  • If the victim is 12 or younger: If one commits sexual battery upon, or in an attempt to commit sexual battery injures the sexual organs of someone younger than 12 years old, he or she is guilty of a life felony. The minimum sentence for this is life imprisonment without parole.
  • If the victim is between 12 and 18: If the victim is under 18 years of age but older than 11, the mandatory minimum sentence is for 108 months imprisonment with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Fines may also be imposed of as much as $10,000.

There are additional circumstances that may factor into the punishment. For example, if it was an aggravated sexual battery, you may be facing a more harsh punishment. If the victim’s organs were injured, or if it was an aggravated sexual battery against a minor, you’ll be facing steep jail time at minimum.

Further, if the sexual battery occurred on federal property, or included the crossing of state lines, you may be facing federal charges and will need a federal defense lawyer in Tampa to help.

How to Defend Against Sexual Battery Charges

Before you begin thinking about punishments for sexual battery, you should think about hiring an attorney who will help you understand the right defense for your unique situation. If you’ve been charged in a sexual battery crime, contact a sexual battery lawyer in Tampa with The Rickman Law Firm to find an attorney today.

For a free consultation with a sexual battery lawyer in Tampa, please contact The Rickman Law Firm today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

How Long Does Sexual Abuse of a Child Stay On Your Record?

If you’ve been accused of sexual abuse of a child, sometimes called child molestation, it can have devastating effects on your family and your life. Your children can be taken away permanently and you can lose the right to spend time with any future children you have. These charges can even impact your job prospects. For that reason, one of the most common questions we are asked is how long these accusations will be present on your criminal record, and if you’re convicted how long you’ll carry the public record of that conviction.

In this brief article, a child abuse defense attorney in Tampa with our team at The Rickman Law Firm shares the statute of limitation on reporting child sexual abuse as well as how long you can expect a conviction or accusation to remain on your record.

What is the Statute of Limitations on Child Molestation Accusations?

According to Fla. Stat. § 95.11(7); House Bill 133, Chapter 2015-133; s. 775.15 Time limitations; general time limitations; exceptions:

“Claims founded on alleged abuse, or incest, may be commenced at any time within seven years after the age of majority, or within four years after the injured person leaves the dependency of the abuser, or within four years from the time of discovery by the injured party of both the injury and the causal relationship between the injury and the abuse, whichever occurs later. “For intentional torts based on abuse.”

Going a step further, H.B. 133:

“…provides that the act may be cited as the “43 Days Initiative Act.” This amends the statute of limitation law, s. 775.15, F.S., by extending the current statute of limitation time period for a first or second-degree felony sexual battery when the victim is 16 years of age or older and does not report the crime within 72 hours. The bill provides a statute of limitation of 8 years for these offenses instead of the previous 3 or 4 year time period. Under the bill, if a 16-year-old or older victim of second-degree felony sexual battery or an 18-year-old or older victim of first-degree felony sexual battery report the crime within 72 hours, current law is applicable and there is no time limitation for bringing a prosecution. The bill applies to any such offense except one already time-barred on or before July 1, 2015, meaning it applies retroactively to previously committed offenses as long as the statute of limitation has not run on these offenses prior to July 1, 2015.”

Can You Seal or Expunge Sexual Abuse of a Child from Your Record?

If convicted of a sex crime involving a minor, you will be unable to seal or expunge the conviction from your record. However, if you were accused but not found guilty, the charges and arrest may still show on your record until you file to have them sealed or expunged. This step is often underestimated in importance, but it can have negative consequences when applying for a job, loan, lease, or even a mortgage if your record shows an arrest for sexual abuse involving a child.

If you’ve been accused of child abuse of any kind, contact a child abuse defense lawyer in Tampa with The Rickman Law Firm. Your attorney will fight to protect your rights and the right to see your children by helping you understand the best defense available to you.

For a free consultation with a child abuse defense lawyer in Tampa, please contact The Rickman Law Firm today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

How Alcohol Factors into False Allegations of Sexual Assault

According to a study performed by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, conservative estimates of sexual assault prevalence suggest that 25% of American women have experienced sexual assault, including rape. Of that number, approximately half of those cases involved alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, victim, or both. Alcohol can often complicate sexual assault cases, blurring the lines between fact and fiction.

In this brief article, a sexual assault defense attorney in Tampa with our team at The Rickman Law Firm shares some insight into the role alcohol plays in cases of sexual assault, and how it can complicate an already complex case or trial process.

Does Alcohol Cause Sexual Assault?

According to a study that examined instances of sexual assault on college campuses, researchers came to the conclusion that alcohol consumption by the perpetrator and/or the victim increases the likelihood of acquaintance sexual assault occurring through multiple pathways. Further, they concluded that alcohol’s psychological, cognitive and motor effects contribute to sexual assault.

This can be for multiple reasons. For example, a person who is drunk may have given consent to another drunk person but simply been unable to remember it. (It should be noted that whether consent is possible while intoxicated is a legal gray area in many cases.) Another reason is that alleged perpetrators may not be thinking clearly and may have misunderstood whether consent was given.

Further, studies have shown that alcohol enhances the misperception of sexual intent, sexual behavior, peer pressure, and aggression, while simultaneously decreasing one’s ability to resist and ability to rectify misperceptions. In other words, alcohol does exactly what we all know: it impairs both parties and muddies the waters of consent.

How Alcohol Can Impact Your Case

When alcohol was involved, accusations of sexual assault become a game of “he-said, she-said” and in some cases, both parties may feel violated. Being intoxicated can lead many victims to not report a sexual assault for fear of not being taken seriously, and for those cases that are reported there is a greater burden on the state to prove guilt.

So how do you protect yourself if you’re facing accusations of sexual assault or sexual battery when one or both parties was intoxicated? The most important step is to find an experienced sexual battery attorney in Tampa with The Rickman Law Firm who can help you understand the best possible defense for your case. When alcohol is involved, your case may become more complicated due to the nature of the accusation and the unreliability of the victim and any potential witnesses. Your attorney will help you navigate these complications while working to protect your rights.

For a free consultation with a sexual battery attorney in Tampa, please contact The Rickman Law Firm today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Can Sex Crimes Be Expunged from Your Record?

If you’ve been arrested or convicted of a sex crime, one of the first things you might be wondering is whether this is going to be on your permanent record. After all, having a sex crime on your criminal record can exclude you from the ability to purchase a home in certain areas, may limit your job prospects, and may even result in social isolation — and that’s not factoring in any jail time or fines you may have been punished with.

In this brief article, we spoke with a criminal attorney in Tampa from our team at The Rickman Law Firm to understand which crimes can be expunged from your record, and whether or not a sex crime will be on your record for life.

What Crimes Can Be Expunged or Sealed?

If you’ve been arrested for a sex crime, or any crime for that matter, the rest is a matter of public record. That means that prospective employers, home lenders, and rental unit owners might see sex crimes or other charges during a background check.

However, once the matter has been heard in court, if you’re found guilty there are only a few crimes that can be expunged or sealed.

In most felony cases, your record won’t be eligible to be expunged or sealed. Additionally, if you were convicted of a sex crime, you are disqualified from expungement. However, if you are a victim of human trafficking, you may actually have the opportunity to seal or expunge your record.

If you’re not convicted that doesn’t mean the arrest will disappear from your record. If the charges were dropped or you were found not guilty, you may be eligible to have the charge expunged.

You’ll need help from the best criminal lawyer in Tampa to make sure that all of the charges are expunged from your record if you’re found not-guilty. This will ensure that you are protected from potential prejudices from society and are not limited in your future opportunities.

How Can You Protect Yourself from Wrongful Charges?

If you need help expunging your record of an arrest that did not lead to a conviction, or are hoping to find out your rights if you’re facing criminal charges for any sex crime, you’ll need an experienced criminal attorney in Tampa to help.

Contact The Rickman Law Firm to find an attorney who will help defend you against these charges and walk you through the process of expunging your record if you are found not guilty. Your attorney will help you understand the best possible defense if you are charged, but taking it a step further they will also advise you during the investigation to protect your rights. They will also discuss legal questions you may have and fight to prove your innocence.

For a free consultation with the best criminal lawyer in Tampa, please contact The Rickman Law Firm today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

3 Common Federal Sex Crimes and Their Penalties

In most cases, sex crimes are convicted at a state level. However, when certain federal crimes are committed during the act, or if the crime involved the harm of a child or legal minor, then the charges rise to a federal level.

In this brief article, a federal defense attorney in St. Petersburg with our team at The Rickman Law Firm shares three of the most common federal sex crimes and their penalties.

Possession or Distribution of Child Pornography

Perhaps the most famous federal sex crime is one being charged to Josh Duggar. According to the U.S. Department of Justice:

“Section 2256 of Title 18, United States Code, defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (someone under 18 years of age). Visual depictions include photographs, videos, digital or computer generated images indistinguishable from an actual minor, and images created, adapted, or modified, but appear to depict an identifiable, actual minor. Undeveloped film, undeveloped videotape, and electronically stored data that can be converted into a visual image of child pornography are also deemed illegal visual depictions under federal law.”

It’s important to note that the legal definition of sexually explicit conduct does not require that an image depict a child engaging in sexual activity. In fact, a picture of a naked child may constitute illegal child pornography if it is sufficiently sexually suggestive. Additionally, the age of consent for sexual activity in a given state is irrelevant; any depiction of a minor under 18 years of age engaging in sexually explicit conduct is illegal — that means that any sexually suggestive selfie sent during “sexting” activity can constitute child pornography.

A person who is convicted of knowingly possessing child pornography can be sentenced up to 10 years in prison or up to 20 years in prison if the minor depicted in the image is under the age of 12. A person who is convicted of distributing or receiving child pornography faces a 5 to 20 year prison sentence. If the person has prior convictions, the penalties will be higher.

Sexual Assault of a Minor

Sexual assault is prosecuted at the state level, but just as it is federally illegal to participate in, consume, or distribute child pornography, it’s also federally illegal to sexually assault a minor.

However, except in limited circumstances, federal laws typically do not apply to child sexual abuse matters that takes place wholly inside a single state and are typically handled by the state. However, if the sexual abuse of a child occurred on federal lands, the offense may be prosecuted under federal law. Federal lands include areas such as military bases, Indian territories, and other government– owned lands or properties..

Federal law also states:

“…offenders convicted of sexually abusing a child face fines and imprisonment. Furthermore, an offender may face harsher penalties if the crime occurred in aggravated circumstances, which include, for example, the offender used force or threats, inflicted serious bodily injury or death, or kidnapped a child in the process of committing child sexual abuse.”

Human Trafficking

Human trafficking occurs any time a person is trafficked by another person for either servitude or sexual reasons. Although this crime often involves several levels of people and involvement, 18 U.S.C. 1584 outlines penalties for up to 20 years in prison for a defendant who is convicted of holding someone or selling them in involuntary servitude. If serious bodily injury or death occurs, or the crime involved kidnapping or sexual abuse, the defendant could be sentenced to life in a federal prison.

If you’ve been involved in a federal sex crime, contact the best federal defense lawyer in St. Petersburg with The Rickman Law Firm. Your attorney will help you understand the best defense for your specific case.

For a free consultation with the best federal defense lawyer in St. Petersburg, please contact The Rickman Law Firm today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

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