Florida law treats any crime of a sexual nature as an extremely serious offense. It may surprise some people that juveniles who are accused of committing sexual offenses face extraordinarily harsh consequences even when they believe the alleged sexual contact is mutual and voluntary.
The age of consent in Florida is 18. No one under the age of 18 is legally capable of “consenting” to sexual activity. That means that sexual activity involving a person under age 18 in Florida is a criminal offense for which a juvenile may be adjudicated “delinquent.” And everyone who is convicted or anyone age 14 or older found delinquent for committing a sexual offense in Florida may be deemed to be a “sex offender,” with all the heinous social baggage that label carries.
Juvenile Sex Offense Defense Lawyers
Many parents feel inhibited and anxious when discussing sexual matters with their kids. But some families are forced to face the issue when their sixteen or seventeen-year-old is arrested by police and charged with “unlawful sexual battery.”
If your family is threatened with a juvenile prosecution against your child for a sex-related crime, contact the Tampa law firm with extensive experience defending the liberty rights of clients accused of serious crimes, including juvenile sex offenses. Ben Stechschulte and Amy Nell are professional criminal defense lawyers who aggressively represent Hillsborough and Pinellas County residents when they are accused of criminal conduct in and around Tampa and St. Pete, Florida.
The Stechschulte Nell Criminal Defense Law Firm uses legal skills honed over decades of legal practice mastering substantive and procedural law in Florida’s criminal courts. Your child’s case will be handled with exceptional professionalism and sensitivity with every effort devoted to preventing a delinquency adjudication on a sex offense. Only the most experienced criminal defense lawyer should be trusted with your child’s future.
What Are Juvenile Sex Offenses in Florida?
A Florida juvenile can be prosecuted for any of the prohibited sex-related crimes on the books, some of which can be committed without any physical sexual contact. In 2018, between Hillsborough County and Pinellas County, there were at least 212 sex offense arrests. A juvenile who is 14 years of age or older is usually prosecuted in juvenile court.
Juvenile courts do not use the adult court’s terminology to refer to a young person who is adjudged guilty of an offense. Instead of “convicting” the accused, a juvenile is adjudicated “delinquent.” In Florida, a delinquency adjudication for any qualifying sex offense can require the juvenile to register as a “sex offender” for 25 years, or perhaps for the rest of their life.
Some sex-related offenses are serious crimes for which a delinquency adjudication would result in mandatory registration as a sexual offender; rape, sexual assault, and child molestation are a few examples.
Less obvious offenses that legally qualify a young person who is adjudged delinquent to register as a “sex offender” include these crimes:
- lewd or lascivious offense committed upon or in the presence of persons under 16 years of age
- touching a minor’s buttocks, chest, or genital area for sexual gratification, even over the clothing
- sexting (electronically distributing any image showing a nude person to another minor that primarily appeals to sexual, prurient, or shameful interests)
- child pornography
- indecent exposure
Since teenagers’ have easy computer and smartphone access to explicit sexual material and their regular exposure to sexualized images in contemporary media, young people can quickly find themselves unknowingly engaged in conduct that violates the law and could result in them suffering a sexual offender delinquency adjudication.
Sex Offender Registration of Juveniles
Requiring convicted sex offenders to register with the police regularly and to comply with restrictions preventing them from living near schools and parks began as a means of informing other members of the community of the presence of a threat. But a byproduct of sex offender registration is the virtual disqualification of registered sex offenders from ever participating in normal life.
Juveniles who are required to register as sex offenders can face increased obstacles because they’ve not yet had an opportunity to experience life without the awful stigma associated with sex offender registration.
Escaping the Requirement to Register as a Sex Offender
There is a limited opportunity for some sex offenders in Florida to be relieved of the registration requirements. First, the sex offender’s need to register can be removed if they receive a full pardon or succeed in vacating their conviction or delinquency adjudication by winning post-conviction relief.
Another possible means of removing a sex offender’s registration obligation is to petition the court to be excused from registering. This petition may be filed only if the sex offender has been free from all sentences, probations, or supervisions for at least 25 years and their offense did not involve any one of a long list of aggravating facts.
What Is the Romeo and Juliet Law?
For young people who fit into a particular age group, being adjudicated delinquent on a sex offense may not necessarily lead to a lifetime of registering as a sex offender. The Florida legislature enacted what is called the Romeo and Juliet Law as an acknowledgment that some teenage romances need not require sex offender registration.
To escape the legal requirement to register as a sex offender, the following circumstances must apply:
- the victim (usually a girl) must be between the ages of 14 and 17,
- the victim is no more than 4 years younger than the offender,
- the victim was a willing participant in the sexual activity, and
- the offender has no previous record of sex crimes.
It is important to note that the Romeo and Juliet Law exception only removes the requirement to register as a sex offender. The juvenile offender’s delinquency adjudication is still equivalent to a sex offender conviction.
Get Your Teenager Tampa’s Best Experienced Juvenile Criminal Defense Lawyers
The stakes are too high to risk your child’s future with anything but the best, most aggressive criminal defense when any kind of sexual offense charge is lodged against your teenager. Attorneys Ben Stechschulte and Amy Nell commit their professional life to the defense of young people whose life and liberty are threatened with a juvenile adjudication of delinquency. Sex offenses are especially stigmatizing, and the consequences can scar a young person for life.