“Sexting” occurs when someone shares nude or sexually explicit images with others through the use of cell phones, the internet, or any other device capable of transmitting data. When consenting adults sext, they usually don’t break the law. But teens in many states who sext face significant potential legal consequences. Because most teens are children, many states consider teen sexting a child-pornography offense and require violators register as sex offenders.
In 2011, Florida legislators passed a sexting stature prohibiting minors from sending images of nudity (their own or someone else’s) to other minors. The first offense would qualify as a civil infraction. Minors who violated the statute would have to perform court-mandated community service or pay a $60 fine. The fourth sexting offense would qualify as a felony.
In theory, Florida prosecutors believed they had an easy case when they brought charges against minors for sexting. In practice, however, they quickly ran into jurisdictional problems. Unlike criminal offenses, Florida law doesn’t give any court jurisdiction of civil infractions by juveniles. Thus, the 2011 sexting statute doesn’t grant any court jurisdiction to prosecute a sexting first offense. This results because in Florida, The Circuit Court has Exclusive jurisdiction for all juvenile criminal matters except traffic offenses. The County Court also has jurisdiction for juveniles in traffic offenses only. A sexting charge is a civil, non-criminal offense for the first violation. Therefore it cannot be prosecuted as a crime in Circuit Court. However, because a sexting charge is also not a traffic offense, there is no jurisdiction in the County Court either.
As currently written, the sexting statute is a violation without a home. Since there is no jurisdiction in either County Court or Circuit Court, a sexting first offense must be dismissed. Attorney Michael D. Kenny, a board-certified criminal defense attorney at Tampa-area law firm Bauer, Crider, and Parry, recently had a sexting case dismissed on lack of jurisdiction.
A child charged with sexting or any type of crime is a serious situation. Consult a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney if your child has have been arrested. The attorneys at Bauer, Crider, and Parry, are here to defend your child during this difficult and precarious time and will strive to protect their future. We will aggressively and effectively handle every aspect of your child’s criminal defense.
Bauer, Crider, and Parry, have provided Floridians with over 30 years of strong criminal defense, stronger results, and over 130 combined years of legal experience.
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