If you are accused of a sex crime involving a minor under consenting age, you could face elevated criminal charges and more severe punishments. Below, we explain what you need to know about Florida’s age of consent laws and how these laws can affect your criminal charges.
Age of Consent
Age of consent is the legal age at which a minor can legally consent to participate in sexual activity. In Florida, this age is 18. Any person who engages in sexual activity with a minor under the age of 18 could potentially face statutory rape charges.
The state law does, however, allow for exceptions under the “Romeo and Juliet” law.
Romeo & Juliet Law
In Florida, there is a close-in-age exemption built into consent laws. Commonly known as the “Romeo and Juliet” law, this exemption is designed to prevent prosecution of younger couples, and only applies to situations involving: couples who engage in consensual sex, couples where one or both partners are under the age of 18, and couples who are relatively close in age to one another.
Depending on the situation, the Romeo & Juliet law may completely exempt the couple from facing charges, or simply be used as a defense against said charges.
How Age of Consent Affects Your Charges
When a sex crime involves a minor under the age of consent, the associated charges are more severe, and the punishments are increased accordingly. In some cases, the specific age of the alleged victim can impact the charges directly. We’ve outlined some of sexual crimes that are directly affected by consenting age.
Traveling to Meet a Minor
Under Statute 847.0135(4), it is illegal to travel any distance within, from, or to Florida with the intention of engaging in unlawful sex with a minor. Predators often engage in communication with the minor via the internet prior to traveling to meet them. As a result, many predators are additionally charged with solicitation of a child for unlawful sex through a computer.
To catch sexual predators in the act, law enforcement officers will sometimes pose as a minor who is offering sexual services online. Other officers may pose as a parent who is offering the sexual services of their child. Because the officers are only offering bate for a sexual predator, and not offering services directly to one specific predator, entrapment cannot be used as a defense for this crime.
Florida classifies a typical solicitation charge as a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and up to a $500 fine. Soliciting someone under the age of consent, however, escalates the charge to a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Lewd or Lascivious Offenses in the Presence of a Minor
Typical lewd or lascivious acts are misdemeanors under Florida law, punishable by up to 60 days of jail time. If you commit said act in the presence of a minor under consenting age, you could face more severe criminal charges and increased punishments.
According to Florida Statute 800.04(7), lewd or lascivious offenses in the presence of a minor occur when:
- The victim is under the age of 16;
- The accused intentionally masturbates, intentionally exposes themselves, touches the victim in a lewd manner, or simulates or commits any sexual activity without touching the victim; and
- The acts occur with or in the presence of said victim.
As the victim of this specific crime must be under the age of 16, they are automatically under the age of consent. Furthermore, as the victim is of this crime must be particularly young, the court may not allow the Romeo and Juliet law as a defense.
Depending on the severity of the offense, the court can charge you with a second-degree, third-degree, or lifetime felony. If you are facing a second-degree felony charge, your punishment may include up to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. If the charge is a third-degree felony, the court could sentence you to up to 5 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. A lifetime felony conviction could result in life in prison.
Unlawful Sexual Activity with a Minor
If you do not fall under the close-in-age exemption, the court can charge you with unlawful sexual activity with a minor for engaging in sexual activity with a minor under the age of consent. Without the Romeo and Juliet defense, you could face a second-degree felony charge for this crime, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Statute 794.011 of the Florida code lists 6 different crimes that fall under sexual battery. As the victim’s age directly impacts the severity of the crime, Florida’s consent law is applicable. Because of this, the sentences for sexual battery of a minor are more severe than that of an adult, and vary upon the specific circumstances of the crime:
- If a parent, or another adult of authority, commit the act, and the minor is under consenting age, the battery is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
- If the victim is over the age of 12, but under the age of 18, and the force of battery is not likely to cause serious injury, the court classifies the crime as a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
- If the victim is under the age of 12, and the perpetrator is under the age of 18, the sexual battery is a life felony, punishable by up to life in prison. As both participants are under consenting age, but close-in-age exemption does not apply, the court considers this crime especially heinous.
- If the victim is under the age of 12, and a group of people acts together in the crime, the law states that the sexual battery is a first-degree felony. If the battery did not include the use of deadly force, a conviction sentence could include up to 15 years in prison. If the crime did involve the use of deadly force, the sentence could be up to life in prison.
- If the offender is a law officer, or an adult that threatens violence, or if the victim is mentally disabled, incapacitated, or does not give consent, the offense is a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. If the victim did not give, or was unable to give, consent due to drugs or incapacitation, the Romeo and Juliet clause is not a viable defense for the crime.
- If a person under the age of 12 is battered by someone over the age of 19, the crime is a capital felony, punishable by death penalty or life in prison without parole. The severity of this crime is due to the victim’s particularly young age, as well as the large separation in age between the victim and the perpetrator.
Contact The Law Office of David A. Webster, P.A. for a Free Consultation
If you are facing felony sex crime charges involving activity with a minor under consenting age, you need strong legal representation. Without it, you could face serious punishments, such as prison time or the death penalty. Don’t take a chance. Contact The Law Office of David A. Webster to discuss your situation with one of our Seminole sex crime lawyers. We have more than 25 years of combined experience and will fight to defend you. Talk to one of our dedicated sex crime attorneys, and start building your defense today.
If you are facing any of these criminal charges, a conviction means mandatory registration as a sex offender. Don’t risk your future. Call our Seminole County sex crime lawyers now to discuss your charges: (407) 326-0650.