The state of Florida has strict sexual offense laws, and any form of violation can result in severe penalties ranging from several years in state prison to hefty fines to a lengthy criminal record. One example of sexual offenses is statutory rape, which most people tend to be charged with because they are ignorant of the Florida age of consent laws. Other times it’s because they were not aware of the victim’s age before engaging in a sexual act with them. Regardless of your situation, a statutory rape charge can damage your life and reputation, and the only way out is working with an experienced Florida sexual offenses lawyer.
What Is Statutory Rape?
Florida State laws define statutory rape as a sexual assault crime. Adults who had sexual conduct with a younger person below the consent age may be charged with statutory rape. In Florida, the legal consent age is 18 years. Anyone below this age is considered a minor and not legally eligible to engage in sexual intercourse. If you have sex with someone who is younger than 18, it’s statutory rape.
Penalties For Statutory Rape In Florida
Penalties for statutory rape under Florida State laws are punished depending on whether the offense is classified as a felony or misdemeanor. Statutory rape could be a minor felony offense or a serious felony offense. However, misdemeanor offenses typically attract no more than a 12-month jail sentence. Statutory rape offenses usually depend on the ages of the defendant and the victim. If the case is about two young people of the same age group, the court may pronounce a more lenient sentence.
Statutory rape is typically penalized under the Florida sexual battery, lewd, and lascivious sexual conduct laws. Penalties are usually as per Fla. Stat. 775.082, 775.083, 794.05 (2018).)
- Sexual activity with a minor under 18 involving an object or body part is a second-degree sexual assault. The sentence is usually 15 years In prison and a $10,000 fine.
- Lewd and lascivious molestation includes fondling or improper touching with a minor aged 16 and below and a defendant aged 18 and above. The penalty for this offense is usually 25 years or a life sentence. If the victim was 12 or younger and the defendant is at least 17, the penalty can be a 15-year jail sentence and a possible $10,000 fine. This is according to Florida Statutes §§ 775.082, 775.083, 800.04 of 2018.
- Lewd sexual battery entails sexual penetration involving an adult and a minor aged 15 and below. The penetration could be with a body organ or object. This offense attracts up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $10,000 as per Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 775.082, 775.083, 800.04 (2018).)
- The defendant was younger than 18 years; the offense is classified as a third-degree felony with a penalty of five years in jail and a $5,000 fine.
- Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is a sexual offense involving an adult aged 16 and below who ends up pregnant following the statutory rape. The crime attracts a $5,000 fine and five years in prison
Defenses Against Statutory Rape Charge in Florida
Unlike the other sexual offense charges, consent cannot be used as a defense in a statutory rape charge. Statutory laws don’t give minors the ability to give consent. Therefore, even if the minor yielded to the act, it remains illegal and a crime.
“Romeo and Juliet” Exception
This defense, named after the young lovers in Shakespeare’s play, “Romeo and Juliet,” is an exception usually given to mitigate potential criminal charges against underage lovers who engage in sexual conduct with their agemates.
In Florida, Romeo and Juliet apply if the victim was 13 to 17 and the defendant was at least four years older. There are eligibility requirements for this exception which if the teenagers meet, the defendant may not need to register as a sex offender. However, he can still be imprisoned or fined.
Mistake Of Age
A defendant charged with statutory rape may argue that they did not know the victim’s actual age. They may also say that the victim asserted that she was of legal consent age and the defendant had reasonable grounds to believe her. To beat the charges of statutory rape, you need the backing of a competent Florida sexual offenses attorney.
Can Statutory Rape Charges Be Dropped?
When you report a case of statutory rape against someone, the logical thing you’ll do is report the crime details to the police. Once the police have your statement, you should not expect the charges will be dropped even if you recant your account later on. You also face a possible charge for lying to the police if you decide to retract your statement. After your accusation, the police will draft a report and present it to the district attorney’s office. From there, it’s the district attorney who decides whether to drop or uphold the charges. However, your recantation may compel the district attorney to drop the charges, although this doesn’t happen often.
How Long Do Statutory Rape Charges Stay On My Record?
Depending on the seriousness of your sex crime, the sex offender registration may stay on for several years and even a lifetime. This means that the offense may stay in your record for the rest of your life. In Florida, a first-time offense can stay on your record for up to 15 years, while a second and third-degree sexual offense can stay on record for life.
Florida Sex Offender Registration
In addition to the penalties highlighted above, Florida state law requires sexual offense convicts to register as sex offenders with the state registry. However, if your case falls under the Romeo and Juliet exception, your lawyer may request the court to issue an exemption from this requirement.
Get Legal Help
If you are charged with a statutory rape offense, consider hiring an experienced sexual offense or criminal defense attorney in your area. The law tends to change, and a lawyer can help evaluate how strong a prosecution’s case could be against you then come up with legal winning defenses that might support your case.
Your lawyer can negotiate with the prosecuting attorney for a lenient charge or reduced penalties such as probation instead of a prison sentence. They’re also better placed to understand how the judge and prosecutor will handle your case. Contact our team of experienced criminal defense attorneys at Meltzer and Bell PA to discuss your case and way forward.