Double jeopardy is a term many people have heard but most people do not fully understand. In sum, double jeopardy means that you cannot be convicted more than once for the same crime. While double jeopardy is straightforward in theory, it can be complicated in Florida criminal cases involving solicitation of a minor for unlawful sexual activity. Recently, the District Court of Appeals of Florida, Third District, explained the nuances of double jeopardy in a solicitation case and ultimately vacated the defendant’s solicitation conviction. If you are charged with solicitation of a minor for unlawful activity or any other sex crime you should speak with an experienced St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney to discuss your options.
Facts of the Case
It is alleged that during an undercover investigation, agents who worked for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) placed an ad on a classified site that said a mother was trying to find men to engage in sexual activity with her thirteen-year-old daughter, and provided the mother’s purported email address and the mother and daughter’s names. The defendant sent an email to the address listed in the ad, and over the next two days engaged in sexually explicit emails with a DHS agent posing as the mother. The emails specifically stated that the defendant was responding to the ad that offered sex with a minor.
Reportedly, the defendant made plans to meet the agent and her “daughter” at the parking lot of a fast food restaurant. When the defendant arrived, he was arrested. He was subsequently charged with using a computer to solicit the parent of a child to consent to the child’s participation in sexual activity and traveling to meet a child for unlawful sexual activity that was facilitated by the child’s parent following solicitation. The defendant was convicted on both counts, after which he appealed, arguing that the dual convictions violated double jeopardy.
Double Jeopardy in Solicitation Cases
The Florida Supreme Court previously ruled that the elements of solicitation are completely subsumed by the elements of traveling after solicitation. Therefore, separate convictions arising out of the same solicitation conduct violates double jeopardy. In order to obtain convictions on both charges, the State must plead and establish that the solicitation that forms the basis of the solicitation charge, is distinct from the solicitation that forms the basis of the travel after solicitation charge.
In the subject case, the court noted that while the record clearly established that the defendant committed two separate acts of solicitation in support of the defendant’s convictions, the court’s inquiry was limited to the charging document, which was the information. As the information did not clearly indicate that the State relied on separate conduct to charge the defendant with both crimes, his dual convictions violated double jeopardy. Thus, the court vacated the defendant’s conviction for solicitation.
Speak with a Seasoned St. Petersburg Sex Crime Defense Attorney Regarding Your Charges
If you are a St. Petersburg resident charged with a sex crime it is in your best interest to speak with a seasoned St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney regarding your charges and what the State must prove to obtain a conviction. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is an adept St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney who aggressively defends individuals charged with sex crimes in St. Petersburg. You can contact Mr. Hanlon at 727-897-5413 or through the online form to schedule a confidential and free meeting to discuss your case.