Transmission of Material Harmful to Minors is when an individual knowingly sends or transmits harmful images, information or data to a person believed to be a child or minor. This includes sending the material through email or text. For a person to be convicted of this offense, three elements must be proven beyond reasonable doubt.
- The defendant knowingly sent an image, information or data that they knew to be “harmful to minors.”
- The defendant had knowledge or believed the recipient of the material was under the age of 18.
- The defendant sent the image via email or text.
The crime, Fla.Stat.847.0138, is a third degree felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. However, each individual transmission can be charged as separate offenses, so the charges can add up quickly. Some defendants may find themselves facing 20 third degree felony charges. If someone has four or more counts of Transmission of Harmful Material, the individual would face a mandatory prison sentence of 12 months.
What is harmful material?
Harmful material is any content that depicts nudity or sexual content that appeals to a prurient interest that is offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community with respect to what is suitable material or conduct for minors and is without serious artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.
Forms of transmission
The material must be sent by electronic mail. This includes both traditional email as well as text messaging.
Defenses to Transmission of Material Harmful to Minors
Oftentimes, the person that the individual is sending material to is not a minor, but a law enforcement officer pretending to be a minor. This is called entrapment. Entrapment is when a law enforcement officer originally says they are an adult, but later claims to be a minor. The officer will then try to induce the individual to send “harmful material”. For this defense to work, the attorney must prove that the officer initiated or requested the harmful material and that they were persistent. The defendant must also not have engaged in similar behavior prior to the charge. Spam is sent through email all the time. There are cases where someone has been sent an inappropriate image and forwards it over without knowing its contents. If it can be proven that there was no motivation to “knowingly send harmful material to a minor”, then the individual may be able to get the charges dropped.
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