Wegner v. State, No. 2D04-2486.

CourtCourt of Appeal of Florida (US)
Writing for the CourtCasanueva
Citation928 So.2d 436
PartiesChris A. WEGNER, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
Decision Date28 April 2006
Docket NumberNo. 2D04-2486.
928 So.2d 436
Chris A. WEGNER, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Florida, Appellee.
No. 2D04-2486.
District Court of Appeal of Florida, Second District.
April 28, 2006.

Page 437

William D. Sites, Lakeland, for Appellant.

Charles J. Crist, Jr., Attorney General, Tallahassee, and C. Suzanne Bechard, Assistant Attorney General, Tampa, for Appellee.

CASANUEVA, Judge.


Chris A. Wegner appeals from his convictions for receiving computer transmissions of descriptive or identifying information about a minor for the purpose of sexual conduct with a child, in violation of section 847.0135(2)(d), Florida Statutes (2000), and for showing obscene material to a minor, in violation of section 847.0133, Florida Statutes (2000). We reject Mr. Wegner's assertion that the trial court committed three reversible errors and affirm. One issue, however, merits discussion. Mr. Wegner contends that section 847.0135(2)(d) is unconstitutional in two primary ways. According to Mr. Wegner's theory, the statute violates the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution because the Florida Legislature failed to include a mens rea element1 requiring the offender to know that the person from whom computer transmissions have been received is a minor. Mr. Wegner further contends that the statute violates the First Amendment by encompassing protected expression.

The State charged Mr. Wegner by amended information with a violation of a provision of the Computer Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act of 1986, which is codified in section 847.0135. Section 847.0135(2)(d) imposes criminal liability on a person who

Page 438

[b]uys, sells, receives, exchanges, or disseminates, any notice, statement, or advertisement, or any minor's name, telephone number, place of residence, physical characteristics, or other descriptive or identifying information, for purposes of facilitating, encouraging, offering, or soliciting sexual conduct of or with any minor, or the visual depiction of such conduct.

By statute, the crime is classified as a third-degree felony.

The amended information charged, in pertinent part, that the defendant "did knowingly receive by means of a computer, any statement of a minor's name or other descriptive or other identifying information, for purposes of facilitating sexual conduct of or with a minor, to-wit [the minor victim]." Before trial, Mr. Wegner sought dismissal of this count, asserting that the statute was unconstitutionally defective for failure to include a mens rea requirement. In other words, the statute operated to hold people criminally liable for receiving computer information from someone they did not know was a minor. The trial court reasoned that because the amended information charged that the crime was committed knowingly and the State was obligated to meet that element of proof, there was no constitutional failing.

Statutory interpretation raises an issue of law, and we review the trial court's ruling de novo. Racetrac Petroleum v. Delco Oil, Inc., 721 So.2d 376, 377 (Fla. 5th DCA 1998). Statutes enjoy a strong presumption in favor of constitutionality, Wright v. State, 739 So.2d 1230, 1231 (Fla. 1st DCA 1999), and courts are obligated to construe statutes to avoid declaring them unconstitutional, Gray v. Cent. Fla. Lumber Co., 104 Fla. 446, 140 So. 320, 323 (1932). Applying that principle and the reasoning of our supreme court in State v. Giorgetti, 868 So.2d 512 (Fla.2004), we reject Mr. Wegner's claim that application of section 847.1035(2)(d) to his conduct violates his due process rights.

In Giorgetti, the court analyzed whether Florida's sexual offender registration statutes, which criminalize the failure to register, are constitutionally defective because the laws fail to contain a scienter or mens rea requirement and thus act to deprive the accused of due process. In affirming the Fourth District's conclusion that "before an offender may be held criminally liable for failing to register, the State must prove that he was aware of a registration requirement," 868 So.2d at 513, the supreme court reasoned that a mens rea element must, in virtually every instance, be read into the statute. Id. at 513-20.

At common law, the general rule was that guilty knowledge or mens rea was a required element in the proof of every crime. It was necessary that the act or omission be joined with the mental intent to commit a crime. United States v. United States Gypsum Co., 438 U.S. 422, 436, 98 S.Ct. 2864, 57 L.Ed.2d 854 (1978); United States v. Balint, 258 U.S. 250, 251, 42 S.Ct. 301, 66 L.Ed. 604 (19...

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11 practice notes
  • State v. Crumbley, Case No. 2D16–3872
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • May 23, 2018
    ...in favor of constitutionality and courts are obligated to construe statutes to avoid declaring them unconstitutional." Wegner v. State, 928 So.2d 436, 438 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006) (citations omitted). Yet, "in a vagueness challenge, any doubt as to a statute's validity should be resolved in favor......
  • State v. Carrier, Case Nos. 2D16–2915
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • March 9, 2018
    ...requirement of alters with the intent to defraud. Statutory interpretation is an issue of law that we review de novo. Wegner v. State, 928 So.2d 436, 438 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006). The law gives a strong presumption in favor of the constitutionality of a statute. Id. The courts are required to con......
  • Braine v. State, Case No. 2D17-807
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • September 14, 2018
    ...of first impression."Statutory interpretation raises an issue of law, and we review the trial court's ruling de novo." Wegner v. State, 928 So.2d 436, 438 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006) (citing Racetrac Petroleum v. Delco Oil, Inc., 721 So.2d 376, 377 (Fla. 5th DCA 1998) ). "The first place we look whe......
  • Figueroa-Santiago v. State, No. 2D10–1312.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • June 26, 2013
    ...common law, the general rule was that guilty knowledge or mens rea was a required element in the proof of every crime.’ Wegner v. State, 928 So.2d 436, 438 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006). In fact, ‘because of the strength of the traditional rule that requires mens rea, offenses that require no mens rea......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
11 cases
  • State v. Crumbley, Case No. 2D16–3872
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • May 23, 2018
    ...in favor of constitutionality and courts are obligated to construe statutes to avoid declaring them unconstitutional." Wegner v. State, 928 So.2d 436, 438 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006) (citations omitted). Yet, "in a vagueness challenge, any doubt as to a statute's validity should be resolved in favor......
  • State v. Carrier, Case Nos. 2D16–2915
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • March 9, 2018
    ...requirement of alters with the intent to defraud. Statutory interpretation is an issue of law that we review de novo. Wegner v. State, 928 So.2d 436, 438 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006). The law gives a strong presumption in favor of the constitutionality of a statute. Id. The courts are required to con......
  • Braine v. State, Case No. 2D17-807
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • September 14, 2018
    ...of first impression."Statutory interpretation raises an issue of law, and we review the trial court's ruling de novo." Wegner v. State, 928 So.2d 436, 438 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006) (citing Racetrac Petroleum v. Delco Oil, Inc., 721 So.2d 376, 377 (Fla. 5th DCA 1998) ). "The first place we look whe......
  • Figueroa-Santiago v. State, No. 2D10–1312.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • June 26, 2013
    ...common law, the general rule was that guilty knowledge or mens rea was a required element in the proof of every crime.’ Wegner v. State, 928 So.2d 436, 438 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006). In fact, ‘because of the strength of the traditional rule that requires mens rea, offenses that require no mens rea......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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