Florida Lewd and Lascivious Criminal Charges and Defenses
Facing charges alleging lewd and lascivious conduct in Florida is an incredibly serious matter. Police and prosecutors vigorously pursue long prison sentences for a person convicted of this charge. You could rest assured that judges in Florida will take charges relating to lewd and lascivious conduct seriously as well.
Being charged with crimes relating to lewd and lascivious behavior will be a life-altering event. You could face a high bond and be placed on strict terms of release if you are allowed to post a bond after an arrest. Once word of the arrest on charges concerning lewd and lascivious behavior becomes public, job loss is likely, and your reputation in the community will be forever ruined. All of this could happen without a jury hearing a shred of evidence.
A conviction for a charge alleging lewd and lascivious behavior will end your life as you know it. Not only is the likelihood of spending several years behind bars a cruel reality, but there are also severe collateral consequences a person convicted of this crime will be forced to endure such as registration as a sex offender, harsh terms of probation to obey, restrictions on the people you could be near, and the possibility of being forced to attend sex offender counseling.
The recidivism rate among people convicted of a charge concerning lewd and lascivious behavior is high. According to the Florida Department of Corrections, people charged with offenses involving lewd conduct return to prison more than 25% of the time. The high recidivism rate for these charges demonstrates that prison is not the answer to solving the problem for everyone. Law enforcement officers and prosecutors see charges involving lewd behavior as an opportunity to send the offender to prison for a long, hard sentence even though the threat of prison is not a deterrent to committing a crime. The statistics from the Florida Department of Corrections clearly show that incarceration is not always a path to rehabilitation.
In Florida, lewd and lascivious is a generic term that encompasses several different charges. Chapter 800 of the 2019 Florida Statutes contains a comprehensive scheme of crimes and punishments related to lewdness and indecent exposure. The severity of the crimes created when Chapter 800 was enacted depends on the nature of the offense, the age of the offender, the age of the victim, and whether the person charged with the particular crime has any prior offenses.
The terms “lewd” and “lascivious” are most often used in conjunction with each other. However, each word has an independent legal definition under Florida law. Lewd conduct describes unlawful actions that are obscene, indecent, evidence a crude sexual desire, or demonstrate a preoccupation with sex. “Lascivious” under Florida law is an expression of lustful feelings or heightened sexual desire.
In isolation, the terms as defined seem to criminalize a person’s most private feelings and emotions. The barrier is crossed, and a crime is committed when an individual acts out based on those feelings, thoughts, and emotions and touches another person who lacks the capacity because of age to consent to the sexualized contact.
Perhaps the most severe of the offenses defined by Chapter 800 of the Florida Statutes is §800.04. Section 800.04 establishes crimes such as lewd or lascivious battery, lewd or lascivious molestation, lewd and lascivious conduct, and lewd or lascivious exhibition. Under §800.04, lewd and lascivious battery is the commission of a sex act with a person falling between the ages of twelve and sixteen, or forces, entices, or encourages someone under sixteen to perform a sex act.
The penalty prescribed by §800.04 for a conviction of lewd and lascivious battery carries a maximum sentence of fifteen years in prison as a second-degree felony offense. The prosecution could argue that the sentence should be a first-degree felony, which carries a prison sentence of up to 30 years, if the defendant is older than eighteen years-of-age and the defendant used the victim to create child pornography, kidnapped or wrongfully imprisoned the victim, or if the accused committed a sexual battery upon the child.
Another serious charge under §800.04 is lewd or lascivious molestation. The crime is committed when the alleged offender intentionally, and in a lewd and lascivious way, touches the victim on the breasts, buttocks, or genital areas. The victim must be under sixteen years-of-age to charge this offense. Also, lewd or lascivious molestation may be committed by touching under or over the clothing.
The severity of the penalties involved for a conviction of lewd or lascivious molestation depends upon the age of the accused and the age of the victim. A person who is older than eighteen years-of-age and molests a child under twelve years-of-age is guilty of a life felony, meaning that the sentencing judge could send the offender to prison for his or her natural life. A second-degree felony, which carries a maximum incarcerated period of fifteen years in prison, may be charged when the accused is younger than eighteen years-of-age, and the victim is younger than twelve. Also, the prosecutor could charge a second-degree felony when a person older than eighteen molests a victim falling between the ages of twelve and sixteen. A person under eighteen will face a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in state prison, for molesting a person between the ages of twelve and sixteen.
Section 800.04 additionally punishes acts committed without touching the victim. According to §800.04, intentionally masturbating, exposing genitalia in a lewd or lascivious manner, or performing another act of a sexual nature in the presence of a child under sixteen years-of-age commits the crime of lewd or lascivious exhibition. A person who is older than eighteen faces up to fifteen years in prison for a second-degree felony upon a conviction of this charge. However, the accused faces a third-degree felony and up to five years in prison for a conviction of lewd or lascivious exhibition.
A successful defense of any of these charges begins with a close examination of the facts of the case. However, Florida law prohibits defendants from asserting specific defenses, including ignorance of age, even if the victim lied about his or her age, consent, or being unchaste. The defense has the option of plea bargaining the case to a reduced charge, such as committing an unnatural and lascivious act, which is a second-degree misdemeanor that carries no more than 60 days in jail under §800.02.
Successful defenses will also take into account the history of the accused, the age of the victim, the circumstances of the incident, whether the victim has a motive to lie, or if the victim delayed reporting if motivated by reasons other than fear or embarrassment.
Don’t Wait – Contact Musca Law Now to Learn More About Your Legal Rights and Options
The repercussions of a conviction for lewd or lascivious behavior are serious and will negatively affect your personal and professional life for years to come. Don’t be afraid to put the skills of an experienced Florida Criminal Defense Attorney on your side. The skilled legal team at Musca Law has the experience and resources necessary to help fight your charges. Schedule a free consultation with our law firm today by calling (888) 484-5057. We look forward to making a difference for you.