Social media platforms like Facebook and Snapchat allow you to communicate with people all over the world. And while that can be good, as you can keep in touch with people you don't get to see often or meet new acquaintances, it can also be bad. Many times, you don't know who you're talking to. Anyone can create a social media profile and claim to be someone they're not. Even worse, they can claim to be an age they're not. For instance, a 15-year-old can find an image of an older person online, use that as their profile picture, and say they are a 25-year-old.
If you come across that fake profile, you might begin a conversation with someone you believe is an adult but is actually a minor. Unfortunately, if your communications with that person turn explicit and you engage in sexual conduct with them, you can be facing statutory rape charges, even if the minor consented. And one of the most distressing things about this is that your lack of knowledge about the person's real age may not be used as a defense in your case.
Social Media Interactions Leading to Felony Charges
In Florida, several laws concern sexual interactions between adults and minors. Generally, the statutes provide that it's unlawful for a person 18 years of age and older to participate in sexual acts with anyone 17 years of age and younger.
A few of the laws include:
- Sexual battery: You could be charged if you have sexual intercourse with someone under 18 years of age.
- Lewd or lascivious battery: This charge may be levied against you for engaging in sexual activity with a minor between 12 and 15 years of age.
- Prohibited use of a computer service or device: Using social media to entice a minor to participate in sexual conduct is unlawful, regardless of whether or not the act took place.
- Traveling to meet a minor: If, after messaging a minor about meeting up with them for sex, you travel any distance to engage in the conduct, you may be charged with this offense.
All of the crimes listed above are felonies. Depending on the alleged victim's age and the sexual conduct engaged in, the charges can be second- or first-degree felonies. In some cases, they may be life or capital felonies.
Regardless of the degree of felony your alleged offense yields, the consequences for having what you thought was a consensual sexual conversation or encounter with an adult are harsh. A conviction may result in years to decades in prison, life imprisonment, or even the death penalty.