When people are chatting with other people online, there is a very real sense of anonymity. Screen names, false email addresses and even fake profile pictures can make a person feel like they can do and say things they’d never do or say if they were using their real information.
However, generally speaking, people aren’t truly anonymous. Federal and state law enforcement agencies have sophisticated resources to identify and track down people who do illegal things online. So while you may be able to conceal your identity from someone with whom you are chatting, you may not be able to hide from the police. With this in mind, you should understand the actions that could be considered illegal if you are chatting with a minor online.
In any online exchange with a child or someone believed to be a child, Florida obscenity laws state that it is unlawful to do the following things and/or entice, seduce or lure a child into doing the same things. This includes:
- Exposing sexual organs
- Exchanging sexually explicit messages
- Sharing or viewing depictions of sexually explicit materials involving minors or with minors
- Traveling to meet a minor with the intention of engaging in sexual activity
- Participating in any lewd or lascivious activity
These exchanges can be considered online solicitation of a minor and they are taken very seriously by law enforcement agencies who regularly conduct online stings to try and catch people engaged in these behaviors.
Communicating with a minor online is not in and of itself illegal. However, if there is reason to believe an exchange is inappropriate, communications can be intercepted or recorded fairly easily and used to bolster criminal charges.
If this is a situation in which you have found yourself, you could be facing some very serious penalties for alleged misconduct. Discussing the situation with an attorney as soon as possible can help you get an understanding of your options and figure out what you can do to protect and defend yourself and your future.