What is Florida’s Sextortion Law?

November 30, 2021 Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes

The internet, and social media in particular, allows users to completely open the confines of their world and connect with people, places, and ideas they wouldn’t be able to otherwise. However, the prominence of social media has also opened the floodgates for criminal activity, including the crime known as ‘sextortion’.

According to the FBI, the crime entails extorting or blackmailing someone by threatening to distribute their private or sensitive material if they do not provide the perpetrator with explicit photos, sex, money, or other various things. In addition, the perpetrator may also threaten to harm the victim’s family or friends unless the victim complies with their demands. Most often, the crime occurs when two people are engaging with one another on a social media or dating app and willingly exchanging explicit photos or videos. At some point in the future, things take a turn for the worst and one of the individuals threatens to reveal the explicit photos or videos they received unless they get something in return.

The Statute & Penalties

In Florida, the crime of sextortion is codified under Section 836.05 of the Florida Statutes which encompasses extortion. Under the statute, the crime occurs in the following circumstances by either verbal, written, or printed communication:

  • When someone maliciously accuses an individual of a crime;
  • When someone maliciously threatens to injure an individual, their property or reputation;
  • When someone maliciously threatens to expose an individual to disgrace;
  • When someone maliciously exposes the secrets of an individual; or
  • When someone alleges an individual has a deformity or lacks chastity

In doing so, the offender must possess the intent to extort money or other pecuniary advantage or to make the person do or refrain from doing something against their will. The crime is classified as a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, 15 years probation, and a $10,000 fine. Because the language of the statute is vague, it is imperative you seek the assistance of an experienced Tallahassee criminal defense attorney familiar with these charges if you or a loved one is being investigated or has been charged with sextortion.

Recent Cases of Sextortion  

This week, Christopher Buonocore of Hicksville, NY, was sentenced in Tampa to 15 years in federal prison for cyberstalking and sextortion charges against six victims, including a minor. For over 7 years, Buonocore harassed the women and posted thousands of explicit and nude photos of the victims on the internet, as well as their personal information including phone numbers, addresses, and social media account identifiers. He also solicited other individuals on the internet to harass the victims, extort images from them, and even encouraged the individuals to rape a victim.

In 2019, 21-year-old University of Tampa student Magnus Sjoberg hacked into a University of Miami student’s online accounts. He then sent her one of the photos via direct message on Instagram with the message “I have more.” When she didn’t respond, he sent her more of her photos. After again receiving no response, he sent her a video of her having sex as a minor and threatened to share the video if she didn’t respond. He was charged with extortion, stalking, and promoting sexual performance of a minor.

How We Can Help

Extortion or sextortion charges carry serious legal repercussions that can be detrimental to the future of you or a loved one. If you are a loved one have been charged with sextortion, seek legal help immediately by contacting a knowledgeable and aggressive Tallahassee criminal defense attorney who will fight to achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have decades of experience and will ensure every defense is aggressively pursued in your favor. Call us today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message to discuss your case during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.

This article was written by Sarah Kamide

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