Sex crimes against children are among the most severely punished offenses in Florida and nationwide. Molestation is outlawed in every state, and in some cases, the federal government steps in to investigate and prosecute defendants. Florida’s statutes do not directly mention “child molestation,” but there are a few laws that directly address the elements that typically constitute an offense, making it imperative that you consult with an experienced Fort Lauderdale child molestation attorney as soon as you suspect you might be under investigation in Broward County.
Florida generally categorizes crimes that involve non-consensual sexual intercourse and touching as sexual battery. There are multiple subcategories within the sexual battery section of the state legal code. Among those categories are sex crimes that involve minors, or anyone who is under the age of 18. Sexual battery charges that involve minors are termed aggravated sexual battery. To better understand how Florida’s aggravated sexual battery laws work, it is important to first understand how state law defines sexual battery. Sexual battery describes the act of a person having non-consensual oral, anal, or vaginal contact between the victim and the offender’s genitals or another object. Because minors under the age of 12 are legally presumed to be non-consenting, sexual battery that takes place in those cases is a strict liability life felony.
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
Against a minor under 12
As a capital felony, sexual battery against a minor under 12 carries a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. Therefore, a judge must automatically sentence a defendant who is convicted of the offense with a life term in state prison. If the offender is under 18, the judge may sentence the defendant to a maximum of life in prison, lifetime sex offender probation and a $10,000 fine. The judge must sentence minor defendants who commit sexual battery against a minor under 12 to a minimum mandatory sentence of 9 years in prison followed by at least two years of sex offender probation. Minors who are convicted of sexual battery in Fort Lauderdale or elsewhere in Florida are required to be listed on the state’s registry. In some cases, a judge may find grounds to impose a downward departure sentence that allows the defendant to be sentenced to less than the mandatory minimum.
Lewd or lascivious battery law
Florida’s lewd or lascivious battery law prohibits intercourse with minors who are older than 12, but younger than 16 years of age. Lewd or lascivious is defined as unchaste, lustful, licentious, or an act done with sensual intent. Lewd or lascivious battery is a strict liability crime; therefore, defendants are barred from making the argument that they were unaware of the minor’s age or that the minor consented to the sexual conduct. If convicted of lewd or lascivious battery, a second degree felony charge, the judge is required to sentence the defendant to a mandatory minimum sentence of 7 3/4 years in state prison followed by a minimum of two years on sex offender probation. The judge may impose a maximum sentence of 15 years in state prison, 15 years on offender probation, and a $10,000 fine. Broward County defendants who are convicted of lewd or lascivious battery are also required to be added to Florida’s offender registry.
Florida statutes also prohibit adults from having sexual contact with minors that falls short of lewd or lascivious battery. A person commits lewd or lascivious molestation if he or he touches the genitals, buttocks, or breasts of a child under age 16 or if the adult encourages, forces, or entices the minor to touch another person in a lewd or lascivious manner.
Related federal laws
In most cases, molestation charges are prosecuted in state courts. However, there are certain situations in which such charges would be investigated
and prosecuted by the federal government. Federal courts have jurisdiction over cases that involve crossing state lines, or that take place on a Native American reservation or on government land or property. Certain cases that involve government officials are also investigated and prosecuted by the federal government. Like Florida law, federal law references elements that comprise a molestation offense in multiple different statutes, including laws that prohibit sexual abuse, aggravated sexual abuse, and sexual abuse of a minor or ward. Federal law specifically prohibits adults from crossing a state line with the intent to knowingly engage in a sex act with a minor under the age of 16. Sentencing varies in federal cases and may range up to life in prison with fines.
Retain a defense attorney for state and federal charges
It is imperative that anyone who has been accused of this crime retain a Fort Lauderdale child molestation lawyer immediately before speaking to anyone else about the case. In Florida, these charges are very serious in nature, and conversations that occur with anyone other than the accused party’s sex crimes defense attorney may be used against the accused to incriminate him or her whether or not the accused actually committed the crime. Having experienced counsel present during all interactions with law enforcement can help those who have been accused of this serious crime protect their rights and ultimately establish the person’s innocence if he or she has been falsely accused in Broward County.