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Internet Solicitation in Florida

If you are convicted of Internet solicitation in Florida, you may be sentenced to prison. However, under certain circumstances, a defendant in a Miami sex crime case may be sentenced to sex offender probation. There are specific rules that must be followed when the court imposes a sentence in connection with sex offender probation. In a recent Florida case, the court considered whether the lower court must orally pronounce every term of sex offender probation set forth under Florida Statute section 948.30 in situations in which there isn’t a conviction of an offense specified under the statute. The defendant had been charged under Florida Statute section 847.0135(3) with two counts of lewd computer solicitation of a child. He was also charged with traveling to meet a minor for illegal sexual activity.

He pled no contest and asked the court to depart downward when sentencing. Specifically, he hoped not to be sentenced to prison. Instead, he hoped to be put on sex offender probation with house arrest.

The lower court denied the motion and sentenced him to 48 months’ incarceration, after which he’d need to serve sex offender probation for the first count for a year. He also had to serve sex offender probation for 15 years that would run back to back, rather than concurrently, with the first count.

During sentencing, the court noted that it was going to impose a special probation term that the defendant wouldn’t be allowed to go online, nor have a computer that could connect to the Internet, and he wouldn’t be able to have an email address that allowed him to join conversations with others over the Internet.

The written probation order included his probation terms, as well as terms orally pronounced during sentencing, and all the terms set forth under Florida Statute section 948.30. The defendants’ convictions and sentences were affirmed on direct appeal. Later, the defendant asked the court to strike the section 948.30 probation conditions. In the alternative, he asked for a modification of terms. While hearing the motion, the lower court noted that it hadn’t reviewed those probation terms with the defendant at an earlier stage.

The defendant argued that the lower court had made a mistake in denying his motion to correct the sentence. He claimed that the written sentence was illegal because it incorporated sex offender probation, even though particular parts of the probation hadn’t been orally pronounced. The lower court disagreed. It explained that if the court had clearly imposed sex offender probation as a special condition of probation, it didn’t need to also specifically state every item that was included within the broader category of probation.

The appellate court explained that there are standard probation conditions to be imposed on people who perpetrate particular enumerated sex crimes. Accordingly, if there’s a conviction for one of these crimes, the lower court doesn’t need to orally pronounce each standard condition. The conditions are needed for convictions of the crimes that are set forth, but they can be imposed in whole or in part on perpetrators of other offenses as special probation conditions if they reasonably relate to rehabilitation.

A rule 3.800(b) motion must be filed if the written sentencing order includes special conditions of probation that a defendant claims weren’t orally pronounced. The motion can include substantive objections. A defendant is not able to raise a due process claim that he wasn’t given a chance to object to unpronounced conditions. The defendant needs to show that he wasn’t given the written sentencing order in time to file a rule 3.800(b) motion.

Even if the defendant didn’t get a written sentencing order in time to file the motion, the court concluded that he was adequately notified of what the probation conditions were during sentencing. The defendant argued that the lower court should have orally pronounced every sex offender probation condition that was located in section 948.30 and was pertinent. Both the lower court and the appellate court disagreed.

The lower court explained that the defendant had acknowledged that he was put on sex offender probation and had also asked for it specifically. Even before sentencing, he asked for a downward departure sentence that included sex offender probation with house arrest, rather than a prison term. The appellate court approved the decision, finding that the defendant had not been able to show that he wasn’t provided with a written sentencing order in time to file a rule 3.800(b) motion, and it also explained that each special condition of sex offender probation need not be orally pronounced.

If you’re charged with Internet solicitation, and you are concerned about sentencing for sex crimes, you should hire an experienced Miami criminal defense attorney who understands the sentencing alternatives available. Call The Hoffman Firm at (305) 249-0090 or (800) 223-1866, or contact us via our online form.

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