A recent comprehensive government survey on sexual offenses and gender-based violence reports that rape cases continue to rise in the United States. According to the research, two out of five women are victims of sex crimes, and six out of ten women experience sexual harassment at the workplace at some point. The statistics show that the fight against sex crimes is far from being won and we still have a long way to go as far as curbing this vice is concerned.
While women are the most vulnerable to sexual offenses, a considerable number of men, especially those aged 11-24 who participated in the survey, also report being victims of sexual abuse. But what is sexual assault, and how is it different from sexual battery? This article addresses these two types of sexual offenses explaining the differences and possible penalties when charged with either of the two.
Understanding Sexual Battery
Sexual battery is defined differently in different states. However, it’s generally considered indecent or forceful sexual conduct against another person. Under Florida state laws, sexual battery is described as unlawful vaginal, anal or oral penetration by a sexual organ or foreign object. Under the same laws, a person can be charged with sexual battery if they force the victim to engage in such sexual acts against their will. Rape is one of the most common types of sexual battery and is the forceful sexual intercourse without the victim’s consent. Where a victim cannot consent to the sexual act, considerations are always given for the victim’s age, for example, if they are below the age of sixteen. Other references are often given to the victim’s mental state and any form of incapacitation. Sexual assault brings shame, fear, psychological trauma, and in the worst cases, unwanted pregnancies. As such, it’s one of the criminal offenses in Florida that carries severe penalties.
Understanding Sexual Assault
Sexual assault is defined as illegal and unlawful sexual contact against another. Sexual assault occurs when sexual contact is made with an object or bodily organ against the victim’s wishes in which threats, controlled substances, or deadly weapons are used. Sexual assault may also be described as lewd behavior, inappropriate groping, or rape. Sexual battery and sexual assault are often used interchangeably in Florida.
Consequences Of Sexual Assault And Sexual Battery Charges
The penalties of a sexual assault or sexual battery charge can be server. But even worse are the effects of the charge, which can derail your life in multiple ways. A sexual assault or sexual battery charge carries the following potential penalties and repercussions:
- Several years in prison and a possible life sentence
- Possibility of being registered as a sex offender for many years or life. This will never leave your records.
- Restrictions on your choice of residency
- Mandatory requirement to wear a GPS tracker
- Possible job loss and inability to secure employment in the future
- Failure to access professional licenses, loans, or government funding
- Restricted access to children
- Social stigma
Sexual Assault Vs. Sexual Battery: Penalties
The penalties for sexual assault and battery in Florida vary depending on the degree of the crime. A sexual battery or assault offense may be charged depending on whether it was a first-degree or second-degree felony. For example, a second-degree felony can be punished by a prison sentence of up to 15 years and a minimum fine of up to $10,000. On the other hand, a capital or first-degree felony charge can attract a minimum of $15,000 in fines and a lifetime prison sentence.
An example of a capital felony is when the offender is above 18, and the victim is younger than twelve years. Defense resulted in injury or damage to the victim’s sexual anatomy. If the offender is sentenced to life in prison, they must serve a minimum of 25 years before being considered for parole. Furthermore, if the offender used a deadly weapon to threaten the victim when committing the crime, then the minimum sentence for the offense can be 40 years with hefty fines. If the offense was committed against a mentally unstable individual or controlled substances were used to incapacitate them so they could not give consent, the offense attracts a minimum of 30 years in prison with high fines. However, if no physical injuries were recorded, the crime could be classified as a second-degree felony, and it comes with a minimum of 5 years in prison and significant fines. The Florida Statute 794.0115 highlights all the penalties for both sexual assault and sexual battery charges.
Florida Sexual Battery And Sexual Assault: Legal Defenses
A sexual assault or sexual battery charge can significantly alter your life and derail your future. However, your criminal defense attorney may present some legal defenses to lessen the charges and penalties against you. But these defenses depend on the circumstances surrounding the offense and the entire case. These legal defenses may include the following:
- Not guilty plea: You and your attorney may argue that you are innocent of the charges brought against you. If you can provide substantial proof of your innocence, this defense may be very much applicable.
- Mistaken identity: Perhaps yours may be a case of mistaken identity where the victim confuses you with the real preparator. Again, a photo array will be required to prove this and the victims’ motivation to accuse you wrongly.
- False accusations: The victim may have a motive to lie and accuse you falsely, yet you are innocent. An alibi will be required to validate this defense.
- The sexual assault act was not possible: It was not physically possible to perform the sexual actions described by the victim. For example, you have erectile dysfunction or a health condition that derails your sexual capabilities. This defense will need to be validated by a medical professional.
- Procedural errors occurred at the time of your arrest, or your constructional rights were violated.
- Consent: The victim consented to the act. Therefore, it was not a criminal offense.
What To Do Following A Sexual Assault Or Sexual Battery Charge In Florida
When charged with a sexual offense, either as an assault or battery in Florida, it’s important to remember that you are facing possible severe penalties and your freedom and future hangs in the balance. When arrested, never forget that you reserve your right to remain silent and only speak in the presence of your attorney. Even if you are innocent, the charges will not disappear miraculously without a legal process. Speaking of which, you’re better off with an attorney by your side to help you navigate the complex legal system to obtain a favorable outcome of your case. As much as is possible with you, try to document the events leading to the alleged crime and subsequent arrest. Then reach out to us at Meltzer and Bell P.A, and we’ll take it from there. No matter how complex your case may be, we have the legal expertise and experience to fight for you and secure your future.