Florida law addresses a broad range of what are generally described as “sexually-based offenses,” or, put more simply, sex crimes. Not only are these some of the most serious offenses in Florida, but they carry with them a broad range of collateral consequences which can, and do, substantially affect the lives of anyone charged with, or convicted of, such an offense.
There are two main parts, or chapters, Florida law which deal with sex crimes. The first is Chapter 794, which addresses sexual battery. “Sexual battery” is a modern term for “rape.”
Briefly, Chapter 794 defines sexually battery generally, and then goes on to specify a variety of circumstances in which the penalties for certain types of sexual batteries are enhanced.
- “Sexual battery” is defined as oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by, or union with, the sexual organ of another or the anal or vaginal penetration of another by any other object; however, sexual battery does not include and act done for bona fine” medical purposes.
- Sexual battery obviously requires a lack of consent of the alleged victim. This lack of consent can either be explicit, or inferred from the circumstances. Under no circumstances can a child under the age of 16 consent to sexual activity, and whether the person accused knew of the alleged victim’s age is not a defense to the crime.
- Sexual battery committed by an adult on a child over the age of 12 is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison
- Sexual battery committed by an adult on a child under the age of 12 is a capital felony. While the death penalty used to be a possible sentence for this offense, this is no longer permitted. A person convicted of this offense must, by law, receive mandatory life in prison (without parole).
- Sexual battery is enhanced to a first-degree felony of life felony, punishable by up to 30 years or life in prison, if certain conditions are present. These include the use of a weapon, if the victim is physically helpless to resist, if the “consent” of the victim is obtained by force or threat of force or a threat of retaliation or injury to another person or when the person accused allegedly uses some kind of drug or intoxicant to obtain consent.
Some of the penalties are slightly different if the person accused is not an adult, i.e., under the age of 18.
In addition to Chapter 794, Florida statutes also contain Chapter 800. Many of the offenses covered by the sexual battery statutes (Chapter 794) overlap with the offenses in Chapter 800.
Section 800.04 of the Florida Statutes defines a number of crimes. These include:
- “Lewd and lascivious battery” (generally, any sexual intercourse or sexual activity) between any person and a child under the age of 16.
- “Lewd or lascivious molestation,” which is generally defined as sexual activity short of actual intercourse. If the child is less than the age of 12, the law requires a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years upon conviction, followed by a lifetime so sexual offender probation.
- “Lewd or lascivious exhibition,” which covers a range of sexual activities not necessarily occurring upon another person, but in the presence of at least one other person.
Just like in Chapter 794, belief or ignorance as to the alleged victim’s age is legally prohibited as a defense. This means it doesn’t matter if the alleged victim shows a fake ID showing he or she is over the age of consent – it’s still a crime.
Other provisions of Florida law doe carve out some exceptions to the sex offense statutes. For example, there is a Florida law which provides that sexual activity between a 16 or 17 year old and someone less than 24 is not a crime.
The penalties for sex crimes can range from probation to mandatory life in prison. However, the collateral penalties extend for all offenders.
Firstly, there are special provisions of Florida law for offenders on sex offender probation. Unlike regular probation, there are mandatory and highly restrictive and burdensome additional requirements. These include mandatory attendance at sexual offender therapy, the administration of polygraph (lie detector) tests on a regular basis, a requirement that the offender maintain a driving log and prohibitions on using the internet or internet-connected devices (among other things). These can be very difficult conditions to satisfy.
Most importantly, anyone convicted of a sex offense (or even if adjudication is just withheld) must, by law, become a registered sexual offender or predator (depending on the severity of the underlying crime). There are enormous and burdensome reporting requirements for registered sexual offenders, including reporting to the Sheriff’s Office four times per year, reporting changes of address with 48 hours and many other requirements
Even more difficult is the fact that registered sexual offenders and predators have their pictures plastered all over the Internet, including government websites which are often the first result on Google or other search engines. This means that the details of a person’s crime are available for anyone to see, basically forever. This information is often published on a regular basis in local newspapers as well. Removing these designations, while technically possible under Florida law, is virtually impossible.
In addition, many cities, towns and counties have passed laws limiting where registered sexual offenders or predators can live (e.g., not near school, day care centers, etc.). This can create enormous problems for offenders trying to re-integrate into society.
For all of these reasons, it is very important that anyone accused of a sexually-based offense contact an experienced attorney for assistance immediately. Do so before speaking to the police or any other investigators. While sexually-based offenses are very serious, there are many unique issues in these cases with which only an attorney can assist you.
The attorneys at the Law Office of Silverman, Vorhis & Mack have extensive experience in sexually-based offenses. Joshua Silverman is a former prosecutor, and during his tenure he focused almost exclusively on a case load of which sexually-based offenses were a very large part. All criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office of Silverman, Vorhis & Mack have extensive experience in defending every type of sexually-based offense imaginable, at every stage of the proceedings from initial accusation all the way through trial. Our experience extends to all aspects of cases, including complex DNA cases.
Before speaking to the police, before answering any questions – contact an experienced lawyer at The Law Office of Silverman, Vorhis & Mack today. We offer free consultations.