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Defending a Sexual Cyberharassment Charge in Florida

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In the day and age of the national #MeToo movement, sexual harassment accusations are not unusual. The Tampa Bay Times recently reported that the former City Commissioner of Madeira Beach was publicly censured after allegedly committing sexual harassment that included groping and licking the face of a former city manager. The alleged harassment reportedly stemmed from concerns about a growing romantic relationship between the former city manager and a third party. The city manager did not come forward with allegations for over five years until the City Commissioner ran for office again. She has now been fined $5,000 for the sexual harassment.

While the alleged harassment in that case clearly involved a physical interaction, this is not the case in every situation where accusations arise. In addition to the fact that sexual harassment can be nonphysical, sexual harassment does not even need to occur in person to be illegal under Florida law. A few years back, Florida enacted Fla. Stat. Ann. §784.049 which made illegal sexual cyberharassment.

What is Sexual Cyberharassment?

This legal concept arises from the modern-day phenomenon known as revenge porn. Under the statute, sexual cyberharassment occurs whenever someone posts or distributes personally identifiable intimate images or videos of someone else on the internet without the depicted person’s consent for no legitimate purpose in an attempt to cause that person substantial emotional distress. The penalties for sexual cyberharassment vary depending on the extent of the crime, but can include prison sentences, fines, and probation requirements.

What is the Reasoning For This Law?

Even when something is deleted from the internet it never truly disappears. In many cases, once an image has been published online, it is downloaded and republished over and over. Thus, this law is intended to stop these kinds of images from being published in the first place.

Are There Defenses to a Charge of Sexual Cyberharassment?

Yes. Depending on the circumstances of the crime you are accused of, defenses can include being able to show that the publication:

  • Did not contain a sexually explicit image. If the image isn’t explicit, it isn’t covered by the statute.
  • Was anonymous. The statute is clear that it is illegal to publish an image that identifies the person depicted in the sexually explicit image. If the person isn’t identified, there can’t be a violation.
  • Had a legitimate purpose. This commonly applies in situations where the images are used for medical or investigative purposes.
  • Was not published. Keep in mind that the statute regulates publication to the internet. This means anything else, such as texting or emailing, is not sexual cyberharassment.

Contact Us For Help Today.

Regardless of whether you have made a mistake or are facing accusations that you know are false, defending a sex offense accusation is a serious task. Many sex crimes attorneys do not have what it takes to successfully defend someone who has been charged with this kind of crime. Because the outcome of this kind of claim can have lasting implications, it is critical that you reach out for help from a sex crimes attorney who can take control of your case. As a former prosecutor with extensive criminal experience on both sides of the legal system, Donald C. Barrett is the Tampa sex crimes attorney you need to help you defend your name. Schedule a consultation today.

Resources:

leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0784/Sections/0784.049.html

tampabay.com/pinellas/madeira-beach-commissioner-accused-of-face-licking-groping-city-manager-resigns-20190206/

https://www.tampadefenselaw.com/the-un-romantic-side-of-teacher-student-relationships-and-the-recent-investigation-that-will-affect-scrutiny-of-them-in-the-future/

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