In Florida, the age of consent to participate in sexual activity is 18. But contemporary social mores and cultural norms often mean that younger teenagers engage in sex earlier than their 18th birthday. This makes the unintentional commission of statutory rape a real risk for many young Floridians.
Statutory rape is a criminal offense that requires no force, violence, or coercion to be proven for the prosecution to win a conviction. The legal theory is based on the theory that someone under age 18 is legally incapable of consenting. They are presumed to be incompetent to agree. Since having sexual intercourse with someone who did not consent is rape, the law of statutory rape presumes coercion even where the facts are clear the underage sexual partner willingly participated.
Tampa’s Stechschulte Nell Law Firm understands how a statutory rape charge can devastate the life of young defendants and their families. The older an accused person is, the more motivated a prosecution team becomes, viewing the sexual interaction between a minor and a much older person as more akin to actual rape. The imbalance in age, position and power between the two parties implies the older person is more calculating and exploitative.
If you or a family member is accused of engaging in a sexual relationship with a minor and facing statutory rape charges, you need experienced criminal defense lawyers to protect you from overly aggressive prosecutors. The government tends to see only one side of a case, which can result in disproportionate penalties if not skillfully defended. Stechschulte Nell’s decades of courtroom experience and their personal approach to every client’s case will provide you with the strongest, most effective defense possible. Reach out to our team at 813-289-1244 today.
Unlawful Sexual Activity with Certain Minors
Florida’s statutory rape law criminalizes only certain types of sexual activity. The state law focuses on sexual penetration of, or union with, the vagina, the anus, and oral penetration. It does not matter to the law whether the illegal act of sexual penetration was performed with a part of the human body or with an object. The law prohibits all sexual penetration or union between parties of certain ages. While any voluntary non-penetrating sexual activity is frowned upon, it does not violate the Florida statutory rape law unless one person is under 16 years old.
One of the key factors in statutory rape prosecutions is the relative ages of the persons engaged in the sexual acts.
Sex Between Person 16 or 17 and Person Over 24 — AGAINST THE LAW (Statutory Rape)
Any sexual penetration between someone either 16 or 17 years old and a person whose age is 24 or older is a 2nd Degree Felony:
- 2nd Degree Felony Penalty is up to 15 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, and lifetime public registration as a sex offender. The ultimate sentence imposed will likely include sex offender counseling and probation following release from prison.
As long as a 16- or 17-year-old person engages in voluntary sexual activity with a person who is over 18 but not yet 24, no crime is committed under Florida law under normal circumstances.
Other Age-Defined Sex Crimes — Sexual Battery
Statutory rape is not the only age-defined sex crime in Florida. While a teenager who is still a minor will not technically be charged with statutory rape, they can be prosecuted for other sex offense felonies.
Sex or Petting Between a Person Under 18 and a Person Aged 12, 13, 14, or 15 — AGAINST THE LAW
Some people think that sexual contact between two people who are both under 18 years old does not violate the law. They would be wrong.
Lewd or Lascivious Battery Molestation can be committed by a 17-year-old who “intentionally touches,” in a lascivious manner, the breasts, genitals, genital area, or buttocks of a person who is 15 years old. The criminal act requires no sexual penetration but is still a 3rd Degree Felony:
- 3rd Degree Felony Penalty is up to 5 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, and lifetime public registration as a sex offender. The ultimate sentence imposed will likely include sex offender counseling and probation following release from prison.
If the same act of intentional touching in a lascivious manner is performed by a 19-year-old on the body of a 15-year-old partner, the crime is a 2nd Degree Felony, again carrying up to 15 years in prison and lifetime sex offender registration, among other penalties.
Sex or Petting Between a Person 12 Years Old or Younger and Person Under 18 — AGAINST THE LAW
If a person under 18 engages in any lewd or lascivious touching with a person 12 years old or younger, the crime is a 2nd Degree Felony, carrying up to 15 years in prison as a penalty.
Sex or Petting Between a Person 12 Years Old or Younger and Person Over 18 — AGAINST THE LAW
When a person 18 years old or older engages in any sexual battery by lasciviously touching a person 12 years of age and older but less than 16 years of age, the act constitutes a 1st Degree Felony:
- 1st Degree Felony Penalty is up to 30 years in prison, a $15,000 fine, and lifetime public registration as a sex offender.
Romeo & Juliet Law
Florida enacted what is commonly called the Romeo and Juliet Law to prevent a young person who engaged in voluntary sexual activity with a romantic partner from being labeled as a sexual offender.
People sometimes mistakenly think the Romeo and Juliet Law will protect them from being prosecuted as felons. That is not true. The only benefit the Romeo and Juliet law extends to young offenders whose victims voluntarily participated in the sex acts is that they may not necessarily be obliged to register as sex offenders for the rest of their life.
To qualify for the Romeo and Juliet exception to lifelong sex registration, the case must:
- the younger victim must have been at least 14 years old during the sexual activity,
- the defendant is no more than 4 years older than the victim,
- the victim engaged in the sexual activity voluntarily.
Ignorance of Victim’s Age is No Defense
“But I thought she was older!”
“She swore she was older!”
“She showed me an ID.”
None of these excuses are a defense to any of the sex offenses described in this blog post. Statutory rape and Lewd and Lascivious Battery Molestation only require proof of the act and the age of the parties at the time of the activity for a defendant to be convicted.
Get Experienced Statutory Rape Defense Lawyers
The complaining party in the offenses covered in this blog post is rarely the younger person who engaged in voluntary sexual activity with the defendant. Instead, the prosecution is launched by an outraged parent who learned of the events. If pregnancy results from the parties’ activity, the family’s motivation for retribution against the offender can be fierce.
At Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, board-certified criminal defense lawyers with extensive courtroom experience aggressively defend young defendants and proceed with the sensitivity that the facts of each case require. Sex offenses involving young people need a combination of delicacy and assertiveness that only the most experienced criminal defense lawyers possess.
Call Stechschulte Nell today for a free case review; 813-280-1244.