Multiple Convictions Stand after Florida Supreme Court Clarifies Sex Solicitation Law

The Florida Supreme Court in 2015 clarified its position on when a person can be charged with soliciting sex and traveling after soliciting sex without running afoul of the rule against double jeopardy, which bans multiple convictions for the same crime. In a recent case, Florida’s First District offered some important insight into how appeals courts are interpreting that ruling. Essentially, multiple text or other messages can be considered different solicitations under Florida sex crime laws.

A defendant was charged with two crimes after exchanging sexually explicit text messages with an undercover police officer who he thought was a 14-year-old girl and then traveling to Tallahassee to meet the person for sex. He was convicted of traveling for sex with a child after using a computer to solicit a child for sex and using a computer to solicit a child for sex. He argued on appeal that the convictions violated the rule against double jeopardy by punishing him twice for the same crime.

wood gavelThe First District initially rejected the double jeopardy argument but decided to take another look at the case after the Florida Supreme Court ruled in a case called State v. Shelley. The high court in that case said solicitation and traveling after solicitation cannot be treated as separate crimes if they are “based upon the same conduct.” But the First District said that ruling didn’t change the outcome of this defendant’s case.

“After Shelley, the law is clear that a single solicitation cannot support a conviction for solicitation and a separate conviction for traveling after solicitation,” the court explained. It also said the burden was on the defendant to prove that the convictions violated the double jeopardy rule, which the court concluded he failed to do.

The court noted that the convictions were based on “dozens of text messages” sent over a nearly 24-hour period. As a result, a jury could consider those messages to be multiple solicitations, according to the court. There was also no reason in the court’s eyes to believe that the prosecutors based the solicitation and traveling charges on the same precise text message.

“This means [the defendant] cannot demonstrate that both of his convictions relied on the same specific solicitation, which means that Shelley does not require us to vacate either conviction,” the court said.

The First District affirmed the defendant’s convictions.

If you or a loved one has been charged with traveling to meet a minor or another sex crime in the state of Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced lawyer. St. Petersburg sex crime attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.

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