Nearly all states in the US, including Florida, consider sexual assault a crime. Sexual assault also comes in various forms. There are first, second, and third-degree sexual assaults. If you are faced with a third-degree sexual assault charge, it’s essential to understand what you’re up against. In this post, we will attempt to cover everything you need to know about third-degree sexual assaults, penalties, and possible legal defenses.
So, What Is Third Degree Sexual Assault?
Third-degree sexual assault is punishable as a third-degree felony by Florida sexual offenses law. The Florida Statute 794.011 presents three different definitions of the crime of thirds degree sexual assault, also known as sexual battery or ‘Sex 3’ entails. The sexual battery happens as a result of any of the following:
- A person entices or forces another person to participate in sexual conduct using force or threatens to use power against the unwilling individual, bringing fear and physical harm to the victim or a third person.
- A person unlawfully subjects another mentally ill or mentally incapacitated individual to sexual conduct resulting in non-consensual sexual intercourse.
- A person willfully engages themselves in a non-consensual sexual behavior with another person whom they are fully aware they are related to.
These forms of sexual conduct are known under the Florida sexual offenses laws as sexual intercourse, vaginal intercourse, oral sex, and anal sex. Also, under the same state laws, any slight penetration is considered vaginal or anal intercourse. Additionally, penetration can be achieved by inserting an object or a body part.
Sexual contact is also defined as physical contact with any intimate body organs of two or more people engaging in the sexual act. Also, sexual contact can occur either for sexual pleasure where the aggressor enjoys humiliating or degrading the unconsenting participant.
Furthermore, intimate parts or organs are defined as the genital areas, genital bodily fluids, inner thighs, groin, breasts, anus, and buttocks,
Engaging in sexual conduct with a mentally incapacitated is defined as having sexual intercourse with a person who is temporarily incapable of controlling their behavior either due to drug influence inflicted on them unlawfully or mental illness/disability.
Penalties For Third Degree Sexual Assault
Third-degree sexual assault is generally classified as a Class D felony if it involves a minor aged 16 years and below. If the victim is 16 and above, the offense is classified as a Class C felony. A class D felony attracts a prison sentence of 12 months to 10 years or a fine of up to $10,000.
In case you committed a third-degree sexual offense against a minor aged 16 and above, you could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. If the victim was ten years or younger, you could receive additional severe penalties.
One thing to note is that once you are convicted of third-degree sexual assault and released, you must be registered as a Florida sex offender. A first-degree sexual offense attracts a ten-year registration period, while a second and third-degree sexual assault offense attracts a lifetime registration.
Legal Defenses For Third Degree Sexual Assault
If you are charged with a third-degree sexual offense, there are many damaging repercussions you’ll have to deal with. However, if you retain the services of a Florida sexual offenses attorney, you may walk out with lesser penalties. Your attorney may employ possible legal defenses to reduce the penalties to a minimum. These defenses depend mainly on the circumstances surrounding the alleged crime and the relationship between you and the victim. These defenses include:
Innocence: You can be charged with a sexual offense even if you are entirely innocent. The victim may not have been sexually assaulted and maybe trying to cover up sine actions for which they are ashamed and are therefore framing the defendant.
Consent: If the victim is of sexual and legal age and mentally and physically healthy, it could be argued that they consented to the act.
Mistaken Identity: The victim may be sexually abused but may confuse the defendant with the real culprit, resulting in a wrongful accusation due to mistaken identity.
Incapacitation: The defense may argue that the defendant does not have the mental, physical or sexual capacity to assault the victim due to health reasons.
Errors In Procedures: There are instances where law enforcement agencies may overstep their mandate and end up violating the rights of the defendant. In such cases, malicious evidence may be presented to suppress the defendant further. For example, failure to read the defendant their rights at the appropriate time or to search their residence without a warrant.
False Accusation: This is a common occurrence in third-degree sexual offenses and a common defense most Florida sexual offense attorneys employ. It is widespread in divorce and child custody cases where domestic violence and sexual battery are rampant. Due to this common occurrence, victims of domestic violence are typically permitted to receive protection under Florida laws.
However, victims of divorce may allege that their spouse or domestic partner sexually assaulted them to receive a larger share of the marital property. They may use third-degree sexual charges to leverage or resolve a child custody or divorce case. Additionally, a bitter breakup or bad blood between a couple can result in one partner falsely accusing the other of sexual assault to obtain sympathy. False accusations may be hard to determine, but a competent and brilliant sexual offense attorney may find legal avenues to prove your innocence.
Find Legal Assistance
If you are suspected of committing a third-degree sexual offense, you need to understand your rights. Under Florida State laws, you have a right to legal representation no matter how severe the charges brought against you are. Also, you have a right not to speak to the authorities unless in the presence of your lawyer. This will help you avoid making any incriminating statements.
Enlisting the services of a competent sexual offense attorney like at Meltzer and Bell PA places you in a better position to employ the best possible defenses against the charges. If you are facing a third-degree sexual offense charge, contact us today to discuss your situation, then chart the way forward.