Defending Against Statutory Rape Criminal Charges in Florida
Statutory rape is a severe crime in Florida. A person convicted of statutory rape faces a lengthy prison sentence along with collateral consequences, such as registering as a convicted sex offender. The potential sentence, as with most criminal offenses, would depend upon the nature and circumstances of the case as well as the difference in age between the offender and the alleged victim, as well as other factors.
Florida law prohibits anyone from having sexual relations with someone younger than eighteen in most situations. The law prohibits sexual encounters between people of certain ages because Florida law does not allow a person seventeen years old or younger to consent to sexual relations. Therefore, Florida law does not recognize consent as a defense to statutory rape even though a statutory rape charge, by its definition, does not include force or threat of force as an element of the crime.
The decision to prosecute statutory rape cases is left with the prosecution. The state attorney’s office will consider factors like the level of cooperation of the alleged victim, the difference in age between the adult and child, the nature of the relationship between the adult and child, the mental acuity and maturity of the adult and child, as well as the emotional well-being of the child. In some instances, charging an adult who is in a dating relationship with a minor only a year or two younger could be construed as an abuse of the prosecution’s power. However, the prosecution has the sole authority to use its discretion to protect the public from harm because the older person is taking advantage of the child, emotionally abusing the child, or exploiting the child in some way.
Sexual activity between two immature people is risky, irrespective of their ages. Accordingly, Florida’s legislature criminalized sex between an adult and a child to eliminate some of these risks.
Some of the risks are:
- Teen pregnancy,
- Sexually transmitted diseases,
- Younger people who are sexually active, especially females, tend to experience mood disorders such as anxiety and depression,
- Younger teens might not have the emotional capacity to understand the significance of intimate sexual relations. One of them might fall in love after experiencing overwhelming emotions, only to have his or her heartbroken. While heartbreak is part of growing up, rejection could lead to a negative self-image, poor self-esteem, and other issues,
- Teenage girls who have not physically matured could experience pain, or
- Teenaged pregnancy could lead to poor health of the mother, poor health of the child, the mother and child growing up in unstable family situations, and the young man who is liable for child support and child-rearing while not being able to take care of himself.
The biggest misconception people harbor about statutory rape charges is that an adult female could not be charged with statutory rape in Florida. That is simply not true. The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires states to treat their people equally. In the context of statutory rape charges, females, and males, alike could face charges.
Florida has what is commonly known as a “Romeo and Juliet” statute. Section 943.04354 of the Florida Statutes grants relief to young adults from the burden of registering as a sex offender or a sexual predator in Florida, in many cases. To qualify for Florida’s Romeo and Juliet exemption from registration as a sex offender in Florida, the offender cannot be more than four years older than the victim, provided that the victim is between thirteen and seventeen years old when the crime was committed, and the sexual contact was consensual.
Statutory rape remains a crime in Florida, and the Romeo and Juliet law does not provide a defense to that crime. The only relief that the offender can receive is relief from registration as a sex offender. The trial judge has the discretion to order or not to order the person convicted of statutory rape to register as a sex offender.
The development in the law is significant. Registering as a sex offender in Florida is an onerous obligation and is one that can follow a person for an exceptionally long time. Sex offender registration was intended for people other than a teenager and a young adult engaging in “consensual” sexual relations.
Statutory rape falls under the general category of crimes identified as sexual battery or lewd and lascivious acts. Florida Statutes §794.05 indicates that a person who is older than 24 years of age and engages in sexual activity with a child who is either sixteen or seventeen years old is guilty of a second-degree felony. A second-degree felony in Florida is punishable by incarceration in the Florida state prison for up to fifteen years. However, under §794.011 of the Florida Statutes, a person could be guilty of a life felony is he or she is found guilty of committing a sexual battery on a child over twelve years of age, and the child did not give consent, or the perpetrator coerced consent.
Although the age of sexual consent in Florida is eighteen, the statutory scheme seems to create a loophole for people between the ages of 23 and sixteen. For example, §800.04 of the Florida Statutes penalizes lewd and lascivious battery as a second-degree felony if the accused engages in sexual activity with a person older than twelve but younger than sixteen. Similarly, the person who commits lewd and lascivious molestation on a person between twelve and sixteen commits a second-degree felony. None of the statutes in Florida specifically outlaws sexual contact between a person who is at least sixteen and a person who is no older than 23 years of age.
Call Musca Law for Aggressive Defense Against Florida’s Statutory Rape Charges
A successful defense of statutory rape charges in Florida demands a skilled, knowledgeable, and aggressive Florida statutory rape defense attorney. Florida’s law regarding statutory rape is highly convoluted and difficult to understand. Therefore, you must contact Musca Law at 888-484-5057 immediately to launch a successful defense if you have been arrested for statutory rape or are under investigation for statutory rape offenses in Florida.