New Cybercrime Law Takes Effect

LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – TALLAHASSEE, FL – Attorney General Bill McCollum today joined state and local law enforcement and prosecutors to announce that the CyberCrimes Against Children Act of 2007 is now in effect. The new law substantially increases the penalties for various types of cybercrime and creates a new, separate criminal charge against predators who communicate online with a child or someone they believe to be a child and then travel to meet that person for the specific purpose of further sexually abusing him or her. Individuals who cross county lines to meet their intended victims are often prosecuted by attorneys with the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution in coordination with the CyberCrime Unit.

“We are well aware of how dangerous internet child predators are and
the level of risks facing our children online, and we are fighting back
full force with every tool available to us,” said Attorney General
McCollum. “We are sending a very clear message to these predators – no
matter who you are or what you do, if you solicit a child, touch a child,
or download a pornographic image of a child – we will find you, we will
prosecute you, and we will put you behind bars where you belong.”

In addition to enhancing penalties for child predators who groom their
victims online, the law includes new penalties for “grooming,” a behavior
which occurs when internet child predators lie about their age to entice
their victims. Florida is currently the only state in the nation with a law specifically targeting grooming.

Another important aspect of the law is the substantially increased
penalties for collectors of child pornography who have more than 10 images of child pornography and either possess or promote child pornography that contains images of children under the age of five, sexual battery of a child, sadomasochistic abuse of a child, bestiality involving a child or any pornographic video or live movie of a child. For possession of these images, the charge is reclassified as a second-degree felony, increasing the maximum penalty from five years in prison to 15 years in prison. For promotion and distribution of these images, the charge is reclassified as a first-degree felony, increasing the maximum penalty from 15 years in prison to 30 years in prison.

The increased penalties for the possession and production of child
pornography will be particularly essential in Florida which ranks fourth in the nation for volume of child pornography on computers, including the use of webcams, chat rooms and video – all for the purpose of sexually exploiting children. Likewise, the new crimes of traveling and grooming address a similarly chilling statistic regarding the number of children sexually solicited over the internet. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 77 million children use the internet daily and nationally, one in seven children in America between the ages of ten and 17 are sexually solicited online.

As of today, Florida now has some of the strongest laws in America
against child pornography and internet solicitation of children. The law
has been heralded by law enforcement and prosecutors who agree the new
provisions will bolster their efforts in the fight against child
pornography and the internet solicitation of children.

In addition to the new criminal charges and enhanced penalties, the
CyberCrimes Against Children Act of 2007 will require registered sex
offenders in the state of Florida to submit their email addresses and
internet screen names to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). This information will be included on the state’s sex offender registry and made available to popular social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. Authorities emphasize the importance of educating children about the potential dangers online and encouraged them to use the internet wisely, pointing out that befriending a predator online is just as dangerous as talking to him or her in person.

Joining Attorney General McCollum today in championing the new law
were the following individuals:

– Lawson Lamar, State Attorney for the 9th Judicial Circuit
– Sheriff Kevin Beary, Orange County
– Sheriff Donald Eslinger, Seminole County
– Sheriff Gary Borders, Lake County
– Sheriff Bob Hansell, Osceola County
– Sheriff Jack Parker, Brevard County
– Major Terry Sanders, Volusia County
– Dave Donaway, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, FDLE
– Deputy Chief Pete Gauntlett, Orlando Police Department
– Maureen Horkan, Director of the Attorney General’s Child Predator
CyberCrime Unit

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