If you are convicted of a Florida sex crime, you may have the opportunity to avoid actual jail time by asking for probation. This form of supervised release requires a person to check in regularly with a probation officer and comply with other terms. In sex offense cases, those restrictions may include limits on the person’s use of cell phones and the internet. As a recent case out of Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal makes clear, failing to live up to those requirements could land you behind bars.
A defendant was sentenced to five years of probation after he was convicted of using a computer to seduce a minor and attempted lewd and lascivious battery on a child. As a condition of his probation, a judge ordered that he “could not have access to the internet without a treatment safety plan in place.” His probation officer also told him that he could not own a cell phone that could access the internet. He went to live in a facility of sex offenders. A court revoked his probation and sentenced him to nearly six years behind bars after facility operators found that he was carrying a Samsung smartphone.
The defendant later appealed the decision, arguing that prosecutors never proved that he actually used the phone to access the internet. The Second District agreed. The appeals court noted that prosecutors had called only one witness – the defendant’s probation officer – during the hearing in which they asked to revoke his supervised release. The probation officer admitted on the witness stand that she had no evidence that the defendant actually used the phone to access the web. The defendant denied using the phone for internet purposes in his own testimony.
That said, the court found that he had clearly violated the probation officer’s instruction that he not possess an internet-accessible phone. The court also pointed out that the original order sentencing him to probation included the condition that he “comply with all instructions from his probation officer.” The court also rejected the defendant’s claim that the no-phone requirement wasn’t reasonably related to his conviction.
“In this case, it is reasonable that [the defendant’s] probation officer would instruct him not to possess a smartphone,” the court said. “[He] was convicted of using the internet to solicit sexual activities with a minor.”
If you or a loved one has been charged with a sex crime in 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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