Sex Crimes Statutory Rape

Each state determines the statutory age at which a person is legally able to consent to have sexual activity. Statutory rape laws are intended to address situations in which at least one partner is under 18, but older than a young child. These cases typically involve adults engaging in sexual activity with teenagers. Being accused of this type of sex crime in Florida can have lasting professional, personal, and legal consequences. Because of this, it is imperative that you contact a Fort Lauderdale statutory rape lawyer immediately to help bolster your defense.

What do Florida’s statutes say?

There are multiple statutes that refer to what would constitute statutory rape in most states, though state law does not mention the term specifically. Elements of statutory rape are discussed in Florida’s lewd or lascivious statutes.

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Laws specific to Florida

Florida’s lewd or lascivious battery statutes deals most directly with statutory rape as it prohibits consensual sexual intercourse with a minor who is older than 12 years of age, but younger than 16. An adult commits lewd or lascivious battery if he or she:

  • engages in sexual intercourse with a child older than 12, but younger than 16
  • encourages, forces, or entices a child older than 12, but younger than 16 to engage in prostitution, sadomasochistic abuse, beastiality or any other act that involves sexual activity

Lewd or lascivious battery is a strict liability crime, which means the defendant may be convicted without regard to whether he knew the minor’s age or whether the minor consented to the sexual activity.

What are the possible punishments?

A second degree felony, lewd or lascivious battery is punishable by a maximum of 15 years in prison, 15 years on sex offender probation, and a fine of $10,000. If a defendant is convicted of lewd or lascivious battery, the judge is required to impose a minimum mandatory sentence of 7 3/4 years absent grounds for a downward departure sentence and at least two years on sex offender probation following release from prison. Defendants who are convicted of lewd or lascivious battery are also required to to be placed on the Florida sex offender registry. Most people who are placed on the sex offender registry are required to maintain updated records on the registry in Florida and throughout the United States for the remainder of their lives.

Mitigating circumstances

There are certain instances that permit judges the opportunity to avoid imposing the minimum mandatory sentence in Florida statutory rape cases. A judge may opt against sentencing a defendant to the mandatory minimum if:

  • the minor initiated, provoked, participated willingly, or was the aggressor
  • if the defendant requires treatment for a mental disorder, other than drug addiction or substance abuse, and is willing to undergo treatment
  • if the defendant is sentenced as a youthful offender before his or her 21st birthday

Romeo and Juliet exception

Contrary to what many people believe, the Romeo and Juliet law does not grant immunity to people who are close in age with the victim and are convicted of statutory rape. Instead, the law provides that under certain circumstances, a defendant’s attorney may petition the court for exclusion from the sex offender registry. In order to be eligible to petition for exemption from a lifelong sex offender designation, the defendant’s case must meet the following requirements:

  • the conviction was for sexual battery or for lewd or lascivious battery
  • the crime involved consensual contact with a minor who was 14, 15, 16 at the time
  • the minor was no more than four years younger than the defendant
  • the statutory rape conviction is the only reason for the sex offender registration requirement
  • the defendant has no other convictions for lewd or lascivious conduct, lewd or lascivious lewd exhibition using a computer, or sexual battery

Unlawful sexual activity with minors

In addition to prohibiting sexual activity between adults and minors under 16 through the lewd or lascivious battery statute, Florida law also prohibits sexual activity between minors ages 16 to 18 and adults over the age of 23. Like the lewd or lascivious battery law, a person who is accused of unlawful sexual activity with certain minors may not claim as a defense ignorance of the victim’s age or argue that he or she should be acquitted because the victim gave consent. Unlawful sexual activity with minors is a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in state prison, 15 years on sex offender probation, and a $10,000 fine. Absent grounds for downward sentence departure, the court is required to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 1/2 years.

Get help with your sex offense charges in Fort Lauderdale

Broward County residents who require legal advice regarding a statutory rape accusation should immediately contact a Fort Lauderdale statutory rape defense lawyer. Getting the help of an attorney as early as possible is always better than waiting until later in the criminal court process. A sex crimes defense lawyer can help defendants avoid self-incrimination when communicating with law enforcement and ensure the defendant’s constitutional rights are protected.

Defendants who retain legal counsel earlier rather than later enjoy the benefit of being able to call a trusted legal professional and receive sound legal advice and any help they may need with understanding Florida’s complex statutes and the potentially intimidating criminal court process.