Sex Crime Defense Lawyers in St. Petersburg, Florida
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Although all sex crimes are treated as serious offenses in St. Petersburg, Florida, some are considered especially severe. For example, solicitation crimes and indecent exposure are usually charged as misdemeanors, while sexual assault and child molestation are charged as felonies. In either case, building a strong defense is critical to the outcome at trial.
St. Petersburg Child Pornography Lawyers
Florida law defines child pornography as an image that depicts a child engaged in sexual conduct. Sexual conduct includes a wide range of activity, including physical contact with the genitals, masturbation, intercourse, and simulated battery. While most charges involve allegations of possessing physical copies of these types of images, Fla. Stat. 827.071 also prohibits possession of computer depictions, online photos, and films. However, a person can only be convicted of this type of offense if there is evidence that he or she knew what the images contained, intentionally viewed them, and took steps to save them. Manufacturing, producing, distributing, and transmitting this type of material is also illegal in Florida and constitute separate charges, often accompanied by allegations of using a child in a sexual performance.
According to Florida state law, the ownership of child pornography is charged as a felony. If someone is found with so much as one single image of child pornography, they will be charged with a third-degree felony. A third-degree felony is punishable by as long as five years in Florida State Prison. The ownership of ten or more pictures or the sharing of these pictures with another person or persons will further the seriousness of your charge, increasing it to a second-degree felony, which will be punishable by as long as 15 years in Florida State Prison.
Defenses Against Child Pornography Charges
There are many different defenses which an experienced attorney might be able to use in the event that a client is charged with second or third-degree child pornography offenses, which include but are not limited to:
- Lack of ownership
- Another person or persons could have used the device that contained the images and might be liable for them
- The search warrant was not valid in either execution or in process
These defenses and many others could be effective for a particular client or a particular set of events but may not necessarily be successful in proving the defendant’s innocence or proving that the prosecution neglected to meet the burden of proof. A clever defense attorney will make every effort to decrease the risk of their client going to prison. One of the ways in which this is accomplished is through the enterprising use of risk assessment.
Sex Offenders’ Risk Assessment
A fundamental element of Florida’s sex offender probation program is the risk assessment process. This risk assessment is able to be employed before sentencing as a critical component of the defense’s tactics. A risk assessment is administered by a qualified professional, normally a psychiatrist or a psychologist who possesses a special skill set that is required for treating sex offenders. This assessment will define the risk that the defendant poses to the general public based on a thorough psychological analysis, physical and mental health assessment, their current offenses, any prior criminal record and their readiness to cooperate and submit to the treatment program.
The accused’s agreement to take part in the sex offender risk assessment is not considered to be an admission of guilt and may not be used as such during the course of the trial. If the report demonstrates that the accused proses absolutely no threat to the public, however, a qualified St. Petersburg defense attorney would be permitted to cite the assessment in an attempt at a plea bargaining or when it comes to sentencing. If the maneuver proves to be successful, then the defendant could avoid incarceration and only be compelled to take part in the sex offender probation program.
Sex Offender Probation Program
The majority of offenders who agree to participate in this program do so as a provision of their early discharge from prison. A lucky few, however, are fortunate enough to bypass this penalty via the risk assessment process. Florida’s sex offender probation program is one of the most comprehensive and demanding programs in the state of Florida but it is worth the struggle if it means bypassing a long stay in the state prison. Those who participate in this program have to meet various requirements which include, but are not limited to:
- Statutory curfews
- Thorough participation in and completion of the sex offender therapy program
- Passing random checks to ensure the offender is not accessing, owning, viewing or possessing any sexually stimulating, pornographic, or obscene auditory or visual material, including electronic media, telephone, computer services, or computer programs that are related to the offender’s aberrant pattern of behavior
- The offender may not access the Internet or any other electronic services until a qualified professional from the offender’s treatment program establishes a safety system pertaining to the offenders accessing or using the Internet or other computer services after a risk evaluation is performed
- The offender must agree to submit to warrantless searches of their person, house and/or car
- Submission to polygraph examinations that will take place no less than once a year
If the terms of the probation are not met, the sex offender will be legally compelled to go to prison. Given the gravity with which the courts handles sexual offenses, particularly those concerning children, it is imperative that you hire a qualified sex crimes defense attorney who is knowledgeable of the laws and defense options as soon as you are able. Doing this could preserve your employment and your reputation by not making you serve time in prison.
Solicitation Crime Lawyers in St. Petersburg, Florida
While most people know that being a prostitute in Florida is illegal, many are unaware that those who solicit these sex workers can also be charged with a crime. However, a person can only be found guilty if prosecutors can prove that he or she solicited, bribed, or induced someone else to engage in sexual services or lewdness. In fact, even making an appointment with another person to engage in sexual activity is unlawful and can be prosecuted as solicitation, even if no money is actually exchanged. Furthermore, the person solicited does not actually have to be a prostitute for someone to be charged with this offense. In fact, many of those who are accused of this crime never even saw the person they are charged with soliciting, but spoke to them online and were arrested as part of an internet sting operation. This type of operation is common, as officers often pose as minors in an effort to apprehend those who commit computer sex crimes.
St. Petersburg Child Molestation Lawyers
Under Fla. Stat. 800.04, a person can be convicted of child molestation if there is evidence that he or she committed any type of lewd act on a minor. In fact, a person can even be charged with this offense if the lewd act was performed in the presence of a minor. Conduct that qualifies as lewd or lascivious includes sexual activity, such as intercourse, as well as intentionally touching the buttocks, breasts, or genital areas of a minor. Defendants accused of this offense cannot argue that the minor consented to the activity or that they were not aware of the victim’s age, although they can argue that their intent was not lewd or lascivious.
Sexual Assault Attorneys in St. Petersburg
In St. Petersburg, sexual assault includes not only forcing someone to engage in non-consensual intercourse, but also any unwanted sexual contact. Because this definition is so wide, a number of different types of conduct can justify a charge of sexual assault, including attacks against children, as well as adults. When children are involved, prosecutors are not required to prove consent, as its lack of is presumed because of the minor’s age. However, when the other party is over the age of 12 years old, the state must prove that any consent given was not voluntary or knowing.
Lewd and Lascivious Crime Lawyers in St. Petersburg, Florida
Florida’s sex crime statutes also prohibit a wide range of conduct in relation to children, including lewd or lascivious:
Although these laws apply specifically to minors, other statutes that prohibit lewd and lascivious behavior and acts also apply to acts upon the body of or in the presence of adults. In the latter case, demonstrating voluntary consent can help defeat a charge of lewd and lascivious behavior.
St. Petersburg Sexual Battery Lawyers
Sexual assault cases involving actual non-consensual intercourse are usually prosecuted under the state’s sexual battery law in Florida. The defenses that a defendant can raise in response to this type of charge depends largely on the age of the other party, as those who commit sexual battery against children under the age of 12 years old cannot claim that the minor consented to the act.
Indecent Exposure/Exposure of Sexual Organ Attorneys in St. Petersburg
Before a person can be convicted of indecent exposure, prosecutors must prove that the defendant exposed his or her sexual organs in public, on someone else’s private property, or in close proximity to private property and that he or she intended to expose him or herself in an offensive manner. The last element is perhaps the most important, as defendants cannot be convicted if the exposure was not sensual or licentious in nature.
St. Petersburg Voyeurism Lawyers
Under Fla. Stat. 810.14, viewing a person without his or her consent while that individual is changing or otherwise privately exposing his or her body is unlawful. However, before a prosecutor can obtain a conviction for this offense, he or she must prove that the defendant had lewd or lascivious intent when viewing the other party and that the individual was in a place where he or she had a reasonable expectation of privacy.
The state of Florida considers sexual assault to have taken place when the victim is made to participate in any sexual exploit or is violated in a sexual manner by the offender without the consent of the victim. There are severe legal punishments that are inflicted for this sort of assault, and those punishments grow in severity depending on the explicit details, such as the application of deadly force or the debilitation of the victim of each individual case.
As explained by Florida laws, anyone who is under the age of 18 is deemed to be incompetent in agreeing to any sexual activities. This legal judgment concerning consent means that if someone who is over the age of 18 (an adult) has completely consensual sex with a person under the age of 18 (a minor), that adult could be charged with statutory rape. Contingent on the exact age of both of the parties, the defendant could conceivably suffer financial punishments, as well as up to 15 years in state prison, and also be ordered to register as a sex offender.
Defenses for Statutory Rape
The state of Florida has what is known as a Romeo and Juliet Law. This law offers an age-gap stipulation that permits a minor who is 16 or 17 years of age to lawfully consent to sexual conduct with someone who is no older than 23 years of age. In the event that the offender might not have been aware of the age of the victim or that the victim represented themselves as being of legal age can never be employed as a defense in a statutory rape case. These facts are, however, able to be given at sentencing as mitigating factors for the court to regard.
As previously stated, consent to participation in any sexual act is never a viable defense nor is pleading ignorance of the victim’s real age. Florida’s “Romeo and Juliet Defense” is a very restricted defense that is only accessible to a person who has been accused of statutory rape. The purpose of the law is to limit the amount of heavy criminal penalties against teenagers who choose to participate in consensual sex with someone who is very close to their own age. In Florida, this defense is only applicable when the minor was between the ages of 14 and 17 and the accused was no more than 4 years older than the victim at the time the alleged criminal act took place. This particular defense might not shield the accused from the burden of legal punishments and penalties, but it could potentially prevent him or her from being legally obligated to register as a sexual offender, which would be on their record for the rest of their life. This decision is left to be decided by each individual judge.