The State of Florida has legal statutes in place regarding statutory rape that govern the age of consent in Florida, criminal charges that are associated with statutory rape, the defenses available to those accused of statutory rape-related crimes and the legally allowed penalties for statutory rape convictions.
According to Florida Statutes, it is against the law for an adult to have sex with anyone who is not also an adult. While some states recognize an age of consent for minors, Florida does not. This means that if anyone age 18 or old has sex with someone who is younger than 18, they have committed statutory rape. Florida law states that until the age of 18, minors are not capable of giving consent for sexual activities.
Statutory rape is one of the most controversial crimes and has received criticism from individuals who have been charged with the crime, and also from individuals who are technically protected by the law. The most common complaints typically stem from relationships between young people who are near in age to each other, although one is technically an adult and the other is technically a minor. Statutory rape differs from forced sexual contact because, in statutory rape, the victim has usually given consent to the sexual contact, although the law and court system do not recognize the victim as being old enough to legally give consent. In fact, the act that takes place during statutory rape would technically be legal if the perceived victim were older.
Another controversial aspect of statutory rape is the fact that the law has historically been applied almost exclusively when young females are the victim. Feminists have argued that statutory rape laws are paternalistic and that they reinforce a societal double standard that keeps young women from exercising the ability to freely express their sexuality. In fact, many years ago, several states had laws that stated that statutory rape laws did not need to be applied to defendants whose victims were unchaste. Historically speaking, statutory rape laws have not been equally applied when a young man is the perceived victim. Instead, the minor men would be congratulated for having sexual contact with an adult woman.
Today’s statutory rape laws, however, are gender neutral regardless of the sexual history of the victim. While the laws vary from state to state, most states define statutory rape as having sexual contact involving penetration with a person who is below a certain age. However, many states also have exceptions to the statutory rape law that are determined by the specifics of the case.
Statutory rape charges in Florida do not require for the prosecution to prove assault. Rape involving assault is illegal but is classified as sexual battery. Situations in which the victim is unable to give consent due to circumstances such as being passed out or in a coma, also fall under Florida’s sexual battery laws and are considered as aggravated assault, regardless of the age of the victim. Assaults that are sexual in nature where the victim is a child can also be covered by the state’s child molestation and enticement laws. Child enticement typically involves luring children to engage in child pornography or other sexual activities.
Statutory rape falls under Florida’s sexual battery and lewd and lascivious conduct laws. The penalty for statutory rape charges is dependent on the ages of both the defendant and the victim. Additionally, depending on the circumstances of the crime, the offenses are split into the following categories:
- Unlawful sexual activity with certain minors
- Lewd and lascivious molestation
- Lewd and lascivious battery
- Lewd and lascivious conduct
- Contributing to the delinquency of a minor
The charge of unlawful sexual activity with certain minors is defined as involving sexual penetration, with either a body part or object, between an adult aged 24 or older and a minor aged 16 or 17. The penalty for unlawful sexual activity with certain minors is either up to 15 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
Lewd and lascivious molestation charges are filed if there is sexual touching between an adult and a minor. Sexual touching includes touching that is done over clothing. If the victim of lewd and lascivious molestation is younger than 12, it is classified as a first-degree felony and carries the penalty of at least 25 years in prison and the penalty can go up to as much as life in prison.
In lewd and lascivious molestation cases where the victim is 13, 14, or 15, or in cases where the defendant was a minor and the victim was younger than 12, the penalty is a minimum of 4 year and 3 months in prison and can be increased up to 15 years.
If the victim of lewd and lascivious molestation is older than 12 but younger than 16, and the defendant is 17 or younger, the penalty is at least 3 years in prison with a maximum sentence of 15 years.
Under Florida state law, lewd and lascivious battery is defined as sexual penetration between a minor aged 13, 14 or 15 and an adult. The minimum sentencing for this charge is 7 years and 6 months, but can go up to a sentence of 15 years.
Another category of statutory rape is Lewd and lascivious conduct, this category includes sexual touching involving a minor younger than 16 years of age and an adult. Alternatively it can involve an adult soliciting a minor aged 15 or younger to engage in sexual touching. In cases where the defendant is an adult, the penalty is a minimum of 2 years and 6 months with a maximum of 15 years in prison. In cases where the defendant is less than 18, the maximum penalty goes up to only 5 years in prison. Additionally, the minimum punishment may be reduced to probation only, if the conviction is for solicitation with no sexual contact.
The final category that falls under Florida’s statutory rape laws is contributing to the delinquency of a minor. This charge is appropriate when a minor is impregnated as a result of the crime of statutory rape. The penalty for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, in this situation, includes a minimum of 2 years and a maximum of 5 years in prison.
In addition to the aforementioned penalties, all individuals who are convicted of statutory rape are required to register as a sex offender. The only time that those convicted of statutory rape are not required to register as sex offenders is in the circumstance of consensual sex between teenagers and young adults. To meet the requirements for this exemption, the minor must be between 14 and 17 years of age and must maintain that the sex was consensual. Additionally, the defendant can be no more than 4 years old than the minor. This particular exception is titled the Romeo and Juliet exception.
Statutory rape charges are serious and can have lifelong impact due to the requirement of registering as a sex offender. If a person is charged with statutory rape, they should consider finding an experienced criminal defense attorney who may be able to develop a defense applicable to your case.