A Crime to Use Your Phone? Florida’s Two-Way Communications Statute
You rely on your cell phone, tablet, and other electronics for a wide array of personal and professional tasks, but you may not realize that these devices could lead to criminal charges in some cases.
Florida has a law on the books that criminalizes unlawful use of a two-way communications device in connection with criminal activity, and it covers misconduct that many people do not expect. Any message or related exchange of information could lead to an arrest, which is added to any charges you face for the underlying crime.
Unlawful use of a communications device is always a felony under Florida law, and the penalties are severe. However, there are defenses to the charges, so retaining a Florida criminal defense lawyer should be a priority. It is also useful to review the basics about this offense and what to expect if you are convicted.
Elements a Prosecutor Must Prove
According to the statutory language, there are three facts the prosecution must establish to get a conviction:
- The defendant used a two-way communications device, including a cell phone, computer, tablet, or other electronics capable of sending and receiving messages over a wireless network.
- That person used the device as a means of facilitating or furthering the commission of a crime.
- The crime that the defendant is accused of committing is a felony, as opposed to a misdemeanor.
Penalties for a Conviction
If the government meets its burden and you are convicted of the offense, the crime is a Third Degree Felony. In Florida, the punishment is up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000. Plus, keep in mind:
- You still face charges and potential punishment if convicted on the underlying felony.
- Having a felony conviction on your criminal record has implications beyond jail time and a fine. Collateral consequences affect your employment options, driver’s license, professional licenses, and other many aspects of your life.
Defenses to Criminal Charges
Your first opportunity to fight charges comes by exposing weaknesses in the government’s case when the prosecutor is trying to meet its burden of proof. In addition, some cases involving unlawful use of a two-way communications device may invoke the double jeopardy defense. The prosecution cannot charge you for this offense when use of a cell phone is an element of the underlying crime.
Additional defense strategies may include:
- Unlawful search and seizure of the device;
- Warrantless search of the content on the device; and,
- Entering into a plea agreement to get the underlying charges reduced to a misdemeanor.
Speak to a Florida Criminal Defense Attorney About Fighting the Charges
This information on unlawful use of a two-way communications device is helpful, but you can see why it is essential to have a skilled defense lawyer to assist. To learn how our team protects your rights in a criminal case, please contact Linkhorst & Hockin, P.A. You can set up a consultation by calling our offices in Jupiter, FL at 561-626-8880 or going online.