Kevin C. Verpaele, a Viera High assistant football coach, has been jailed on charges of attempting to have a sexual relationship with a student. Verpaele is accused of soliciting a child for sexual conduct using a computer or the Internet. According to Brevard County Sheriff’s Lt. Tod Goodyear, the relationship was caught before any illegal sexual activity occurred.
Soliciting a Child for Unlawful Sex (officially referred to as Soliciting a Child for Unlawful Sexual Conduct by Using a Computer) was made illegal to protect children against the trolling, by adults, of internet chat rooms for unsuspecting minors.
The crime of Soliciting a Child for Unlawful Sex occurs when a person uses an online service, internet service, or electronic device capable of data storage or transmission to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice a person believed to be a minor child to engage in an unlawful sexual conduct; and
One does not have a defense to Soliciting a Child for Unlawful Sex in Florida simply if the person posing as a child was actually an undercover law enforcement agent. Common undercover techniques occur when a law enforcement agent either:
– the parent of a child
– the child themselves
– law enforcement engages in a bait-and-switch conversation.
Police commonly use pose tactics when attempting to catch sexual predators, seen in many investigative TV shows that involve police posing as underage children (or the parents of underage children) on popular internet sites such as Facebook, Craigslist, Yahoo, and other forms of messaging.
Importantly, the fact that an undercover operative or law enforcement officer was involved in the detection and investigation of the crime of Soliciting a Child for Unlawful Sexual Conduct Using a Computer cannot be raised as a defense in a subsequent prosecution for the offense.
If the accused misrepresented his age, then the charge is escalated to a 2nd degree felony. Usually the law enforcement operative gets them to misrepresent their age. The last sting major sting in Clay county involved most offenders receiving 5 years as minimum, while some received more time. Most were charged with 2nd degree felonies. Usually the decoy will have the accused bring something to the meeting. In the Clay case, the accused were asked to bring Skittles candy by the police decoy. Most arrested showed up with skittles.
An essential element of the crime of Soliciting a Child for Unlawful Sexual Conduct Using a Computer is that the defendant either seduce, solicit, lure, or entice the child (or person believed to be a child) to engage in an unlawful sexual act.
However, each word has a very precise legal meaning and if the defendant did not actually engage in acts that would constitute those requirements then one cannot be convicted of the crime.
This defense is most practicable in Bait & Switch prosecutions where the undercover law enforcement agent directs the entire conversation and the defendant merely consents to the offers.
Many times, law enforcement will use a “Bait and Switch” routine to catch a predator. Initially, the undercover law enforcement agent solicits legal sexual behavior; the most common scenario being a single parent looking to meet an adult interested in sexual activity.
However, the undercover agent quickly redirects the conversation from lawful sexual relations with the posed parent to unlawful sexual relations with the parent’s child.
The Florida crime of Soliciting a Child for Unlawful Sexual Conduct Using a Computer is a third degree felony, and, if convicted, a judge is required to impose a minimum prison sentence of 21 months in prison and can also impose any combination of the following penalties:
– Up to $5,000 in fines.
– Up to five (5) years of specialized sex offender probation.
– Up to five (5) years in prison.
Each separate use of a computer, online service, Internet service, or electronic device can be charged as a separate criminal offense. This means that if one uses a computer on four separate occasions to discuss engaging in unlawful sex with the person believed to be a minor, one could be charged with four separate counts of Soliciting a Child for Unlawful Sexual Conduct Using a Computer.
Many times, one may be entrapped and therefore has a defense. Entrapment occurs when an agent of the government induces a person to commit a crime that the person was not otherwise predisposed to commit. In determining whether the defendant was predisposed to commit the crime of Soliciting a Child for Unlawful Sexual Conduct Using a Computer, and therefore entrapped, one’s experienced attorney would need to examine the following issues to see if an Entrapment Defense might be possible:
– Defendant’s expressed sexual interests;
– Documented instances of reluctance by the defendant to commit the unlawful sexual act;
– Who initiated the discussions of unlawful sexual activity;
– Diligence of law enforcement to commit the unlawful sexual act.
The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for years and is here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one requires a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.
Additional Sources: Viera High coach charged with soliciting teen Stacey Barchenger, Florida Today