Defending Lewd or Lascivious Molestation in Florida

Lewd and lascivious molestation in Florida is criminal conduct that carries severe penalties, including a minimum mandatory 25-year prison sentence in some cases. The penalties vary in severity depending on the facts of the case. The age of the person charged with the molestation and the age of the child involved determines what penalty is possible.  


Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law in Tampa, devote their professional careers to defending people accused of a crime, including sex offenses allegedly committed against children. Every defendant has a right to a skilled, aggressive, and knowledgeable defense attorney. 


False and exaggerated allegations can result in unjust convictions of innocent defendants unless every effort is made by professional criminal defense attorneys to challenge the evidence against the accused. If you or someone in your family is facing sexual battery or lewd and lascivious molestation charges in Hillsborough County or Pinellas County, Florida, call Stechschulte Nell for experienced, board-certified criminal defense.  



What Is Lewd and Lascivious Molestation in Florida? 


The crime of lewd and lascivious molestation is defined in F.S. 800.04(5) to distinguish it from other sexual offenses prohibited by Florida law. Lewd and lascivious molestation is understood to be unlawful sexual contact with a child under 16 years of age. It is different from a sexual battery which requires some form of sexual penetration. 


Lewd and lascivious molestation is intentionally touching the breasts, genitals, genital area, buttocks, or the clothing covering them, in a lewd and lascivious manner, of a person under 16 years old. It is also lewd and lascivious molestation to entice or force someone under 16 to touch the perpetrator in the described areas. 


The terms “lewd and lascivious” are used in law to mean the same as indecent, lecherous, and lustful.  


When the individuals involved in the offense are of varying ages, society and the law view the activity in a slightly different light. That is not to say that sexual contact with someone under age 16 is legal for some but not others. On the contrary, the law strictly applies to offenders over 18 years old and those who are closer in age to the underaged alleged victim. What differs is the severity of the penalty. 


Read More > What Constitutes Sexual Battery in Florida?  


When a Person 18 or Older Molests a Child Under 12 Years of Age 


The difference in age and maturity between an adult who is 18 or older and a child who is not yet 12 years old is deemed depraved by the law and by our social norms. Because this age disparity in such a case is considered to be the most egregious instance of lewd and lascivious molestation, the penalty in such a case is up to life in prison, but in no event, less than 25 years.  


Of course, a person convicted of this crime must register as a sex offender and remain on probation for the rest of their life.  


When an Offender Over 18 Molests a Child 12 or older but under 16 


While the crime described in the previous section is also commonly referred to as plain child molestation, when similar conduct is engaged in by someone 18 years old and a child between the ages of 12 and 16, the offense is punishable as a 2nd Degree Felony.  


As a 2nd Degree Felony, lewd and lascivious molestation between a person 18 or older and someone between 12 and 16 of age, a convicted defendant faces up to 15 years in state prison, followed by lifetime registration as a sex offender.  


Consent is No Defense 


Different social attitudes exist when considering the comparative ages of young lovers. For example, a person who just turned 18 and a person days before their 16th birthday could be only days more than two years apart in age. However, if the 18-year-old is criminally charged with lewd and lascivious molestation, the defendant faces up to 15 years in prison. 


Florida’s sentencing guidelines, the Criminal Punishment Code, assign this category of offense a Level 7.  


The convicted defendant facing their first offense would be sentenced to at least 51 months in prison unless they had grounds to request a downward departure.  


What Happens When a Minor is Charged with Molestation of a Child under 12 


While one might expect a minor who commits lewd and lascivious molestation of a child under 12 to be treated more leniently than an adult who commits the same offense, the statute offers no such protection to the young offender.  


A minor convicted in adult court of unlawful sexual contact with a child under 12 faces up to 15 years in state prison, just as an adult would.  


Juveniles and Adult Court Prosecution 


It’s true that juveniles who commit crimes that would be felonies if committed by an adult can be referred to adult court for prosecution. Juveniles as young as 14 or 15 years old can be prosecuted in adult court. 


But Florida criminal justice system does recognize that some juveniles’ criminal conduct may more appropriately be dealt with in the juvenile court, where the emphasis is placed on rehabilitation. The prosecutor will determine whether to exercise the option of sending the case to adult court for full prosecution. 


Contacting an experienced Florida criminal defense lawyer immediately upon learning of your child’s involvement in a criminal investigation is essential to presenting the strongest advocacy on their behalf. A skilled criminal defense lawyer whose reputation for diligence and competence is well known can persuade prosecutors to give a young offender the benefit of the doubt, to attribute their errors to youth, and to engage a juvenile court prosecution rather than referring the case to an adult court. 


Minor Molesting a Child 12 or Older but Under 16 Years Old 


When a minor is engaged in the kind of sexual contact legally defined as lewd and lascivious molestation with another minor who is over 12 but under 16 years of age, the conduct is punishable as a 3rd Degree Felony carrying up to 5 years in prison. 


In this set of circumstances, it is possible for two 15-year-olds to be engaged in romantic petting over each other’s clothes and both be criminally liable. Either or both could be prosecuted, although only one would practically be selected to be the “perpetrator” and the other the “victim.” 


Social norms may approve of conduct that the criminal law prohibits. Courts of law are bound to apply the law when a case is brought before the bench. 


Romeo and Juliet Law 


The Romeo and Juliet Law is not a defense to a lewd and lascivious molestation charge. The law does not excuse the criminal conduct of a young person convicted of unlawful sexual contact with another minor who is older than 12 but under 16.  


Instead, the Romeo and Juliet Law allows some qualified offenders to petition the court to relieve them of the obligation to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.  


To qualify, the following circumstances must be present: 

  • The victim is between the ages of 14 and 17, 
  • The offender is no more than 4 years older than the victim,  
  • The victim must have consented to the sexual contact, 
  • The defendant must be a first offender. 


Read More > What is Florida’s Romeo & Juliet Law? 


Florida Sex Crimes Defense  


If you are facing a sex crime in Florida, turn to our team of attorneys at Stechschulte Nell Law. We understand the complexities of sex crime cases and are dedicated to fighting for justice on behalf of our clients. 


We are on your side. Contact us today for a case review at 813-280-1244.  

To learn more about how we can help

Contact us Today