The media and lawmakers have increased the emphasis on aggressively pursuing prosecutions against individuals charged with a sex crime against a child.  This focus has grown to near “witch hunt” levels so that the mere accusation draws public condemnation without regard to reliable evidence or the recognition of the presumption of innocence.  In this blog, we provide a summary of sex offenses involving minors and discuss important information for those facing such allegations or criminal charges.  If you or a loved one have been accused of a sex crime against a child, the punishment can go beyond prison and fines to include lifetime registration as a sex offender.

Media depictions of child sexual abuse often focus on sensational accounts of strangers abducting and abusing children, but most cases involve relatives, friends, counselors, teachers, or others who have a close relationship with a child.  While such a close relationship does provide a perpetrator with access and opportunity to commit child sexual abuse, these existing relationships can give rise to false allegations by the child or someone close to the child.  While allegations of sexual misconduct toward a child tend to make the front page, false allegations rarely get comparable coverage.  With the exception of a high-profile celebrity, the victim of a false accusation of child molestation will rarely have their story told.  Many scenarios exist where an accuser has a strong motivation to fabricate false claims of sexual abuse, such as:

  • Children falsely claiming abuse to go live with the other parent
  • Divorcing party seeking an advantage in a child custody or divorce case
  • Parents seeking a change in custody timeshare to increase child support

Lewd and Lascivious Battery [§800.04, Fla. Stat. (2005)] (referred to as Statutory Rape in some states) is a specific charge that can be brought against an adult alleged to have committed a sex crime involving a child in Florida.  A person can be charged with this offense for engaging in sexual conduct with an individual over the age of 12 but under the age of 16.  This criminal charge also can be brought for enticing, encouraging, or forcing an individual under the age of 16 to commit an act of prostitution, sadomasochistic abuse, bestiality or other sex acts.  

The punishment for statutory rape depends on the relative age of the parties.  Lewd and Lascivious Battery constitutes a second-degree felony if the purported victim is between 16 and 17 with a sexual partner of the age 24 or above.  A conviction of the offense under these circumstances can result in a maximum term of 15 years in prison, a 15-year probation term, and a maximum fine up to $10,000.

Prosecutors can pursue a criminal conviction for this offense against an adult (individual over the age of 18) even if the sexual activity is consensual because 17 constitutes the age of consent in Florida.  An accused might believe they did not engage in a crime because the complaining witness (e.g., alleged victim) consented or the defendant was unaware of the purported victim’s age.  When the age of the alleged victim is under the age of 16, more serious offenses and stiffer penalties can be brought against an accused.

For example, an individual who intentionally touches the buttock, genital area, breasts, genitals, or clothing covering those areas of someone under the age of 16 or entices or compels a person of this age to so touch the purported victim commits the offense of lewd and lascivious molestation.  [See §800.04]. Depending on the age of the parties, this offense can be a life felony, second-degree felony, or third-degree felony.  If the accused penetrates the complaining witness, the offense of lewd and lascivious battery can be a first-degree felony.

Consent or lack of knowledge of the age of the victim are barred as defenses because under Florida law a person under 17 cannot give consent to sexual activity with a person 18 or o1der.  Even if the victim has a reputation for promiscuity, this evidence generally will be excluded from use by a defendant.  Under §800.04, a complaining witness’ “lack of chastity” (i.e., promiscuity) cannot be used as a defense.  Because of the statutory exclusion of these defenses, sex charges brought under this section must be defended differently than rape charges.

While the statute expressly bars certain defenses to this offense, Florida lawmakers enacted the Romeo and Juliet exception, which also focuses on the age of the respective parties.  The objective of this defense is to protect “young couples” where one partner is slightly older than his or her paramour.  If the younger partner is between the ages of 14 and 17 with the older partner being a maximum of four years older, the Romeo and Juliet exception might warrant reducing or completing dropping the charges.  However, an accused relying on this exception could still face the lessor charges of lascivious exhibition or corruption of a minor.

Unlike many criminal offenses, conviction of a sex crime against children will carry consequences that endure even after the accused has served his sentence, paid any fines, and fulfilled his or her terms of probation.  Individuals accused of statutory rape offenses and related charges will be required to register as a sex offender.  Along with requirement that you register your social media accounts, phone number and address with law enforcement, you can face challenges seeking housing, employment, higher education, loans, and more.  While these severe consequences make retaining an experienced sex crimes lawyer imperative, the stakes are even more dire if you have prior criminal record especially one that includes similar criminal offenses.

Call (888) 484-5057 for an Experienced Florida Sex Crimes Attorney!

Unfortunately, the laws surrounding lewd and lascivious crimes leave much to be desired in terms of improvement. Many innocent people have been wrongfully charged with these crimes and have had to pay the price. To ensure that your rights are protected and that your best interests are being fought for, contact a Florida sex crimes lawyer from Musca Law today. We offer free case evaluations! Call us 24/7 at (888) 484-5057 for your free consultation.