Sex Crimes

While Florida state courts have jurisdiction over most sex crimes, there several offenses, including aggravated sexual abuse, crimes involving minors, cases that involve death, human trafficking, and sex offender registry violations, that may be prosecuted in federal court. The federal government generally imposes stricter sentencing in criminal cases. Therefore, Broward County and Naples who have been accused of a federal crime have even more of their freedom and personal and professional reputation at stake. A Fort Lauderdale sex crimes lawyer can provide trustworthy legal advice, high-quality representation, and the benefits of having a dedicated, compassionate advocate at work on the case no matter how complicated the circumstances are.

Child pornography

Crimes against children carry very strict sentences. Law enforcement officers aggressively pursue people who possess, exchange and create child pornography through sting operations. Local officers and federal agents pose as people who are looking for pornographic images. They engage unknowing child predators with the intent of catching adults who exchange illegal images of children or are attempting to lure children for indecent purposes. Law enforcement officers conduct long-term investigations and infiltrate groups to intercept illegal images of children that are exchanged among pedophilia rings within which people across multiple states secretly exchange pornographic images of children. In some instances, a person may mistakenly receive unsolicited pornographic images of children after downloading malware, accidentally clicking a link that leads to a pornographic website, or receiving images in an unsolicited email. In other cases, a person may be mistakenly accused of viewing or collecting child pornography if illegal images are found on a computer the individual shares with someone else and the other person accessed the images.

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Sexual assault

States vary in the terms they use to describe various types of unwanted sexual contact. Under federal law, “sexual assault” is a general statutory term for unwanted or offensive touching. Groping, assault, battery, and rape are all included under this category. Lack of consent is implied in victims who are under the age of 16. Penalties for sexual assault depend on the age of the victim and, in some cases, the attacker, as well as other potentially aggravating circumstances. Individuals who are convicted of sexual assault in federal court may be sentenced to up to 20 years in federal prison and may also be ordered to pay fines. Individuals who are convicted of sexual assault are also likely to be required to be added to the sex offender registry and must remain in compliance by maintaining updated personal information on the registry. Federal laws specifically cover assaults that take place on federal government property, in prisons, at sea, and in special government territories.

Sexting

A crime that largely affects teenage minors, sexting is a relatively new crime that presents a challenge for parents, teachers, school officials, federal and state legislatures, and law enforcement. Because most teens have access to cell phones, making digital photography so readily available to minors has created an opportunity for underage teens to take and send photos that are generally considered to be child pornography or otherwise inappropriate for minors. Sexting is a criminal offense for which senders and recipients of photos may be charged, even if both parties are under the age of 18. Parents should monitor their children’s phones closely and discuss with them the very real legal risks of taking and exchanging nude or sexually-themed photos.

Lewd & lascivious laws

There are three varieties of lewd and lascivious criminal charges under Florida law: lewd and lascivious conduct, lewd and lascivious molestation, and lewd and lascivious battery. The term “lewd and lascivious” is defined as anything that is unchaste, lustful, licentious, or with sensual intent on behalf of the person who is doing the act. Lewd and lascivious conduct occurs when a person intentionally touches a minor who is under the age of 16 in a manner that is lewd and lascivious or solicits a child under 16 for a lewd and lascivious act. Lewd and lascivious molestation occurs when a person engages with a minor who is under 16 in a sexual interaction that falls short of the definition of lewd and lascivious battery. Specifically, the person may be charged with lewd and lascivious molestation if he or she touches the buttocks, breasts, or genitals of a minor. Lewd or lascivious battery is more commonly known as statutory rape. A person commits lewd or lascivious battery if he or she engages in sexual intercourse with a minor who is older than 12, but younger than 16 or if he or she forces a minor between 12 and 16 to engage in any other act involving sexual activity. All lewd or lascivious offenses are strict liability crimes, meaning a defendant may still be convicted if he or she was unaware of the victim’s age. Penalties for these offenses increase in severity depending on the age of the victim.

Rape offenses

In Florida, the crime of rape is legally classified as sexual assault statute, which is a category under the general sexual battery statute. To establish that a defendant has committed rape, the prosecutor must prove the defendant engaged in non-consensual oral, anal, or vaginal penetration. The prosecution may alternatively establish a union occurred between the defendant’s sex organ and the mouth, anus, or genitals of the victim. If the victim is under age 12, lack of consent is automatically implied. Prosecutors must establish the victim did not voluntarily consent if the victim is over age 12. While the state must show lack of consent, it is not necessary for prosecutors to prove a victim resisted the attack. Federal law classifies what most people would refer to as rape under its sexual assault statutes. Sexual assault that occur on government property, in an area in which the federal government has maritime jurisdiction, in a U.S. territory, or that involves crossing state or international borders are typically automatically prosecuted in federal courts.

Date rape cases

Depending on the circumstances, date rape cases can be difficult for prosecutors and for defense attorneys because there are usually no witnesses, and the alleged victim and alleged attacker have often had a pleasant relationship prior to the incident. Due to the inherent lack of witnesses and, in many cases, lack of conclusive physical evidence to support either party, personal credibility often becomes a subject in date rape cases. Relationships with mutual acquaintances may become strained, and reputations are often damaged. Rape is a heinous crime that is grossly underreported. Nevertheless, there are occasional instances in which a defendant may have been wrongfully accused of date rape. Complex date rape cases require the immediate attention of a seasoned date rape defense attorney who can handle these cases that deal with delicate, complicated subject matter with professionalism and discretion.

Statutory rape

Officially referred to as lewd or lascivious battery in Florida, statutory rape is an offense in which an adult who is age 24 or older engages in sexual activity with a minor under age 16. Unlike other rape cases, consent is irrelevant to a statutory rape charge. Unawareness of the victim’s age is also not a valid defense. Furthermore, non-consent is implied for victims who are under 18 and have a disability. A statutory rape defense attorney can counsel individuals who have been accused of statutory rape regarding possible defense strategies. A Florida statutory rape lawyer can represent people who have been accused or are under preliminary investigation through all interactions with law enforcement and throughout the criminal court process.

Child molestation

The federal government has taken a firm approach to addressing the issue of child molestation. In addition to enacting very detailed statutes to cover sexual offenses against minors of all ages, the government has enacted legislation regarding sex offender registration for those who are convicted of offenses that involve children. Each state has its own terms for certain offenses. In Florida, these offenses, especially crimes that are committed against children are prohibited under the lewd or lascivious statutes as well as general sexual battery laws. People who are wrongfully accused of child molestation are faced with a possibility of an extensive prison sentence as well as a damaged reputation, certain limitations being placed on employment opportunities, and strained relationships with family and friends. Anyone who has been falsely accused of child molestation in Naples or Fort Lauderdale should immediately contact an experienced Florida molestation defense lawyer who will take active steps toward protecting the rights and reputation of the wrongfully accused in addition to building a strong case for the individual’s defense.

Human trafficking

As human trafficking gains attention nationwide, Florida has made efforts to crack down on the illegal sex trade. A person may be convicted of human trafficking if he or she knowingly, or with reckless disregard of the facts, engages in or financially benefits from transporting, harboring, soliciting, recruiting, maintaining, or obtaining another person with the intent to exploit that person for commercial sexual activity. Although the statute requires defendants to have knowledge or reckless disregard, people who provide services, such as accommodations, transportation, and security and surveillance, that are used by human traffickers may become the subject of a criminal investigation despite being completely unaware that they are providing support for a human trafficking operation. In these cases, a Fort Lauderdale sex offense attorney can work diligently to gather evidence of the person’s lack of awareness or intent to advance the crime. Enlisting the help of a Florida human trafficking defense lawyer can ultimately help the accused clear his or her name and protect the reputation of his or her business.

Chatroom charges

As the internet became more accessible to households, child predators descended upon internet chat rooms as a means of luring minors for sexual purposes. In response, law enforcement agencies have incorporated online sting operations as a means of catching child predators in the act of attempting to solicit and entice children. The sting operations take place in online forums where child predators are most likely to lurk such as child-friendly chat rooms and message forums, social media platforms, and gaming discussion forums. Individuals who are caught by law enforcement agents, who pose as minor children pretending to agree to meet with the adult, are typically charged for soliciting a minor and traveling to meet a minor. Many cases are very straightforward and result in child predators being arrested and charged. However, in some cases, it is less clear whether the adult intended to engage in illegal conduct with a child. Fantasy and role-playing forums present the possibility that the adult remained under the impression that the person with whom he or she was communicating was only pretending to be a child. A Florida chatroom charge defense lawyer can help people who are mistakenly accused of soliciting a minor set the record straight and avoid the very serious damage a false child-related sex offense charge can cause to a person’s reputation.

Sex offense appeals

For defendants who did not receive a fair trial or who may have encountered a serious issue with the criminal court procedure, appellate courts present an opportunity to seek remedy in a different court venue. The appeals process can be especially beneficial to people who have been wrongfully convicted or sentenced in cases involving very serious offenses like sex crimes. Due to stricter sentencing, an error in the federal court process may have even worse consequences. Individuals who are wrongfully prosecuted, convicted, or sentenced in federal court may file an appeal and have their case heard by a federal appellate court judge. Individuals who have been wrongfully convicted or unduly sentenced should contact a reliable, knowledgeable Broward County sex crimes appeals attorney to learn more about the appeals process and to take the first step toward correcting the error the court system may have made.

When you need a defense attorney in Fort Lauderdale…

Criminal accusations that involve sexual offenses are among the most serious charges a defendant can face. In addition to the possibility of prison time, probation and fines, sex offender registration can significantly limit a person’s choice in where they are able to reside and work in addition to having a public record that details the crime for which the person was convicted. People who are wrongfully accused of these offenses in Naples or Broward County should immediately seek out a Fort Lauderdale sex crimes attorney who has a solid, proven track record of successfully defending people in high-stakes state and federal cases.