Is not knowing someone’s age a defense to sexual abuse in Florida? What if you thought it was a consensual relationship?: Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Explains
In short, Florida law doesn’t care whether or not you thought the person you were having sexual relations with was 18 years old or older. Florida law and Florida state prosecutors care about the actual age of the victim - regardless of how old you thought they were - when it comes to sexual abuse or sexual assault charges in Florida.
Many states have different laws in place in regards to the legality of having sex with minors. Florida in particular, makes it illegal for any person over the age of 18 to have sex with a person under the age of 16, even if it is consensual.
This means that if you are 18 or older and have sex with someone under 16 - even if you’re in a relationship and it’s consentual sex - you could potentially be charged with a crime, as you have broken the law by committing statutory rape as defined by Florida law. In Florida, no one under the age of 16 can legally consent to sexual activity - so if you’re over 16 even, and have sex with someone under 16 that could lead to criminal trouble in Florida. Additionally, even if someone is over 16 but under 18 years old, legally Florida says that they cannot consent to any sexual activity if the other participant is 24 years old or older.
Boiled down: If you are 18 and have sexual relations with someone under 16 years old in Florida, you could be charged with a crime. If you are 24 years old and have sexual relations with someone between 16 and 18 years old, you also could be charged with a crime.
Statutory rape laws in Florida are based on the idea that a minor is incapable of giving consent when sexual activity is involved. In Florida, statutory rape is prosecuted under Florida’s sexual battery and lewd and lascivious conduct laws. Penalties for Statutory Rape will differ for every case, as it will depend on the age of the victim as well as the age of the alleged defendant.
In order to thoroughly understand whether not knowing someone’s age is excusable or not in Florida when it comes to possible sex crimes, it is important to first understand the different penalties for sex crimes in Florida that have to do with the age of the alleged vicitim:
- Unlawful sexual activity with certain minors: This includes sexual penetration between a minor who is either 16 or 17 and an adult who is either 24 years old or older.
- This offense is considered a second-degree felony, which could mean up to 15 years in prison and possibly having to pay a fine of up to $10,000.
- Lewd and lascivious molestation: This includes sexual touching, even if there is no skin to skin contact, between a defendant and a victim - who is a minor under 16 years old. It is also important to note that if the victim was under the age of 12, the offense is considered a life felony.
- For this, the penalties will include prison ranging from 25 years to life in Florida state prison.
- In another scenario, if a victim was 12 through 15 years old and the defendant was over 18 years old then the offense would be considered a second-degree felony in Florida. The same applies to instances where the victim was 12 years old or younger while the defendant was 17 years old or younger.
- If the victim was younger than 12 and the defendant was 17 years old or younger, then this would be considered a third-degree felony in Florida. This means, the defendant could potentially be sentenced to prison for 5 years or less and/or be forced to pay a fine for $5,000 or less.
- Lewd and lascivious conduct: This applies to sexual touching between an adult (over the age of 18) and someone 16 years old or younger.
- If the defendant is at least 18 years old, then they will be charged with a second-degree felony in Florida. These penalties could mean having to serve a prison sentence for up to 15 years and/or pay a fine that could be up to $10,000. If the crime was committed before the defendant turned 18, then they will most likely be charged with a third-degree felony.
- Contributing to the delinquency of a minor: This applies to individuals, who are 21 years old or older, that impregnate a minor who is under the age of 16.
- This could mean the defendant might have to face a third-degree felony with possible consequences of up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of $5,000 or less.
As you can see from all of the charges above, Florida takes the issue of sexual misconduct with children and minors very seriously.
This begs the question as to whether or not you can defend yourself by demonstrating you did not know someone’s age previous to being sexually involved.
While it could very well be true that you didn’t know the TRUE age of the person you were in a relationship with or that you were having sexual relations with in Florida, Florida law shows no leniency and explains how “ignorance of the age is no defense”.
If you believe that you are in this predicament, you must contact a criminal defense attorney in order to go over your rights and learn how an attorney can help protect your rights, future, and livelihood.
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