Florida’s sexual offense statutes, as set forth in Chapters 794 and 800 of the state’s criminal code, are lengthy and extensive. Conviction of certain sex crimes carries a mandatory prison sentence of anywhere from 25 years to life without parole. For those offenses and many others, conviction will also require the person to register as a sexual offender. This will have permanent, wrenching effects on the quality of the offender’s life.
Some common sex offenses include:
- Prostitution. In Florida it is illegal to offer, accept, or trade sexual favors for money. For those who do, or attempt to do so, a misdemeanor charge of solicitation can be levied for first-time offenders, and habitual offenders can face felony charges. It is also a felony to procure individuals for prostitution (also known as pimping), to live off the earnings of a prostitute, or to run a house or other location in which acts of prostitution are taking place.
- Sexual battery, or rape. This includes any type of sexual intercourse without the willful consent of the other individual(s), or intercourse with persons less than 16 years of age. Barriers to willful consent include, among others, the victim’s status as a minor; mental or physical helplessness or incapacitation; or the offender’s use or threats of physical violence, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or extortion. Sexual battery on a person under age 12 by a person over age 18 is classified by Florida law as a capital offense, although the death penalty does not apply.
- Lewd or lascivious (L&L) battery, or molestation. L&L battery occurs when a person engages in sexual activity with a person between 12 and 16 years of age, or forces a person younger than 16 to engage in acts involving sexual activity. L&L molestation occurs when a person intentionally touches in a lewd or lascivious manner certain body parts of a person under 16 years of age (breasts, buttocks, or genital area), or forces a person under 16 to touch the perpetrator in a similar manner.
- Lewd or lascivious exhibition. This applies to a person who publicly masturbates or exposes the genitals in a lewd manner (also called “indecent exposure”), or commits other sexual acts that do not involve actual physical or sexual contact with the victim.
- Internet sex crimes. Because of their potential worldwide reach, these crimes are generally prosecuted by federal authorities. These include offenses such as possession or distribution of child pornography; soliciting minors to commit sexual acts (or traveling to meet with minors for sexual purposes); arranging “sex tours” targeting underage children in foreign countries; and the like. Quite often pornographic images of children are detected when a person brings a personal computer to a technician for repair, even if the person believes the images to be securely stored. Or a person will enter a shady online chat room and solicit sexual activity from an undercover law enforcement officer masquerading as a minor.
L&L and many Internet offenses, as we see, revolve primarily around the age of the victim. As such, certain defenses are prohibited: the victim’s lack of chastity; the victim’s consent; the client’s good-faith or ignorant belief as to the victim’s age; or the victim’s active misrepresentation of his or her age. (A word to the wise: When in doubt, walk away. Don’t even bother to ask for an ID. )
If a person is convicted or pleads guilty to a sexual offense, regardless of the terms or length of his sentence, he will almost certainly have to register as a sexual offender, or (worse) a sexual predator. This is a devastating status that can follow him for the rest of his life. He may be prohibited from living in certain neighborhoods because of their proximity to schools, public parks, and other areas where children congregate. In many neighborhoods where he is permitted to live, his neighbors will learn of his status through public media sources. He will certainly be barred from certain types of employment, especially those involving frequent contact with children. If the offender has been sentenced to a fixed prison term, he may even be taken into custody at the end of the term, to be placed in a civil commitment program involving continued incarceration. (In Florida, this is known as a “Jimmy Ryce commitment.”) To be released from the program, the offender is required to prove that he will not pose a risk of repeating his offenses, and often receives a hearing on the issue only after an extended period of confinement, sometimes longer than the prison sentence itself.)
It cannot be overstated: Anyone who is contacted by law enforcement regarding a sex crime allegation must contact an experienced criminal attorney immediately–no matter how minor the allegations may seem–so that his or her rights are protected and the best outcome possible can be achieved. The Tony Moss Firm stands ready at all times to assist; just call 877.547.9407, or email us at Tony@TonyMossLaw.com.