Man in Brandon Faces Over 100 Sex Crime Charges

April 24, 2023 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Sex Crimes

Sex crimes are considered extremely serious offenses in Florida, especially when the offense involves minors. In Florida, these crimes carry severe legal consequences that can impact the offender’s future. This blog post will explore the legal implications of sex crimes against minors, along with a recent case in which a man was charged with over 100 sex crimes.

What was the Incident?

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) arrested Austin Drue Hoffman, 28, after an undercover investigation identified him as attempting to sexually exploit children online. The investigation began in May 2022, when an undercover HCSO detective posed as a juvenile to contact Hoffman online.

At the beginning of the conversation, Hoffman claimed to only be 19-years-old. He also requested the juvenile decoy send him nude images or engage in sexual acts. HCSO then had probable cause for Hoffman’s first arrest on May 19th, 2022.

HCSO issued a search warrant to seize Hoffman’s cell phone to investigate its contents. Detectives and forensic experts spent the following months retrieving any illegal content on the cell phone.

There were over 100 exhibitions of child sexual abuse material (CSAM), which included images and videos of young children and infants. The cell phone also contained generated images of child sexual abuse material and depictions of bestiality. In addition, Hoffman’s cellular device indicated he had shared over 100 examples of CSAM with other people.

HCSO’s Human Trafficking Section and the Internet Predator Unit obtained an arrest warrant for Hoffman’s second arrest on December 1st, 2022. However, detectives would uncover more examples of CSAM on the defendant’s home devices, which led to additional charges.

While in custody for his second arrest, Hoffman was accused of engaging in sexual activity with minors. Detectives had three victims provide statements on the illegal activities they endured by the defendant. HCSO added another set of additional charges against Hoffman for his unlawful sexual activity with minors.

The following is a statement by HSCO Sheriff Chad Chronister:

“Our hearts go out to the victims of the suspect who were used in his disturbing criminal acts. These kinds of investigations are not easy for our detectives, who are subjected to the worst things a person can see, and then must go home and live a normal life in our communities. They are the heroes who sacrifice in order to find and rescue the victims of these predators, and work to ensure they have a chance at justice within our legal system.”

Hoffman is currently facing over 100 charges for sex crimes. He is currently being held on a $3,080,500 bond. HSCO asks anyone with additional information to contact them at (813) 247-8200.

Total Charges

The following is a list of charges Hoffman is facing, according to HCSO’s report:

  • Use computer services/devices to solicit certain illegal acts while misrepresenting ageFlorida Statute Section 847.0135 states it is a third-degree felony for any person to solicit, seduce, or entice a minor, or the parent or legal guardian of a minor, for the purpose of engaging in any sexual act. If the defendant misrepresents his or her age, the charges are increased to a second-degree felony.
  • Unlawful use of two-way communication deviceFlorida Statute Section 934.215 states it is a third-degree felony for any person to use a two-way communications device, which includes a portable two-way wireless communications device, to facilitate or further the commission of any felony offense.
  • Out of state transmission of child pornography by electronic device (x100)Florida Statute Section 847.0137 states it is a third-degree felony for any person to transmit any illegal content in or out of the state which they knew or should have known was considered child pornography.
  • Possession of child pornography, 10 or more images and content of images (x100)Florida Statute Section 775.0847 states that a violation of a child pornography possession charge will be reclassified to the next higher degree if the defendant possesses 10 or more images of any form of child pornography, or if it depicts anyone younger than 5, sadomasochistic abuse, sexual battery, or sexual bestiality when it involves a child.
  • Possession of child pornography, realistic computer-generated videos of child pornography (x4)18 U.S. Code § 2252A states that it is unlawful for any person to knowingly distribute, send, or provide a minor with any visual depiction, including any image, film, video, picture, or computer-generated image depicting a minor engaging in sexual activity. Violating this federal law can result in imprisonment from 5-20 years, or 15-40 years if the defendant has prior convictions.
  • Film, distribute, or possess image or video of sexual activity with an animal (x2)Florida Statute Section 828.126 states it is a third-degree felony for any person to knowingly film, distribute, or possess any pornographic images or videos of a person and an animal engaged in bestiality.
  • Possession of child pornographyFlorida Statute Section 827.071 states it is a third-degree felony for any person to knowingly possess, control, or intentionally view an image, video, or any other depiction of what he or she knows is considered child pornography. Each presentation of child pornography found in the defendant’s possession is a separate offense.
  • Promotion of a sexual performance by a childFlorida Statute Section 827.071(3) states it is a second-degree felony for any person to knowingly produce, direct, or promote any performance which includes the sexual conduct of a minor.
  • Traveling to meet a minor after using computer services/devices to solicit certain illegal actsFlorida Statute Section 847.0135(4) states it is a second-degree felony for any person to travel any distance within, to, or from this state by any means for the purposes of engaging in unlawful sexual acts with a minor.
  • Unlawful sexual activity with a minorFlorida Statute Section 794.05 states it is a second-degree felony for any person 24-years-old or older to engage in sexual activity with a minor between the ages of 16-17-years-old.
  • Transmission of harmful material to a minorFlorida Statute Section 847.0138 states it is a third-degree felony for any person to knowingly transmit an image, information, or date that is harmful to minors.

Possession vs Distribution

In Florida, the possession and distribution of child pornography are both serious offenses which can be charged as both a state and federal offense. However, the two are distinct offenses with differing legal definitions and penalties.

Possession refers to knowingly or intentionally owning or obtaining any visual depiction of a child engaged in sexual conduct. This includes any photograph, film, or any other form of visual media.

Distribution involves knowingly or intentionally sending, selling, or otherwise distributing any visual depiction of a child engaged in sexual conduct. This can include sharing content online through email, social media, downloadable files, or other electronic means, along with physical distribution.

It’s important to note that both possession and distribution of child pornography are serious criminal offenses, which can cause lasting consequences. A person convicted of a sex crime involving minors will not only face expensive fines and imprisonment but will also be required to register under Florida’s Sex Offender Registry.

Additionally, individuals convicted of these offenses can face lifelong social and personal consequences, including difficulty finding employment, housing, and even personal relationships.

HB 1297

In March 2023, Florida Legislature filed HB 1297 titled “Capital Sexual Battery.” The proposed bill is aimed to provide the death penalty for certain child sexual offenders. The proposed bill would amend Florida Statute Section 794.011 to state that a defendant who commits sexual battery upon, or attempts to commit sexual battery upon a minor younger than 12-years-old, and causes injury to the sexual organs, is considered a capital felony and may be sentenced to the death penalty.

If the prosecution wishes to seek the death penalty, they must first file a notice. Upon the defendant’s conviction of such capital felony, the court will then conduct a separate sentencing proceeding to determine whether the defendant shall be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, or the death penalty.

As of April 13th, 2023, HB 1297 has passed in the House. On April 18th, 2023, the bill passed the Senate with 34 votes yeas, and only 5 nays. It should now be going to Gov. DeSantis’ desk to be signed into law.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or someone you know has been accused of a sex crime in Florida, it is imperative that you seek out legal representation as soon as possible. Sex crimes have some of the harshest penalties in Florida, as each piece of CSAM is often charged as a separate offense. The best way to fight the charges against you and to protect your future is by working with a skilled defense attorney near you.

Don Pumphrey and his team have worked on countless cases in Florida and understand what it takes to fight criminal charges. Our attorneys can review your case and determine which defenses are applicable to lessen the charges against you, or to get them dismissed completely. To speak with an attorney at Pumphrey Law Firm, contact us today at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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