What is Statutory Rape?

Statutory rape involves a sexual relationship between an adult and a minor.

Because minors are presumed to be unable to consent to sexual activity, sexual relationships between minors and adults are treated as coercive.

In Florida, statutory rape is also known as Lewd and Lascivious Battery. Statute 800.04 defines it as:

1. Engaging in sexual activity with a person 12 years of age or older but less than 16 years of age; or

2. Encouraging, forcing, or enticing any person less than 16 years of age to engage in sadomasochistic abuse, sexual bestiality, prostitution, or any other act involving sexual activity.

(b) Except as provided in paragraph (c), an offender who commits lewd or lascivious battery commits a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

Who Can Be Charged with Statutory Rape?

Once the police have received a report from an individual, a parent, or a guardian, they will investigate. If they feel they have sufficient evidence, and if the offense occurred within the past three years, they will arrest the accused.

Because this charge involves a minor, law enforcement officers take it seriously—as do prosecutors.

What is the Age of Consent in Florida?

The age of consent—the legal age at which an individual is believed to be mentally capable of consenting to sexual activity—is 17 in the state of Florida.

That means that individuals who are under 17 may be considered victims of statutory rape if they engage in a relationship with someone over 18.

What Are Common Defenses Against Statutory Rape?

While some individuals may think they can claim that the charges against them should be dropped because they didn’t know the alleged victim’s age, that the alleged victim was promiscuous, or that the alleged victim consented, these are not always valid legal defenses.

In fact, Statute 800.04 specifically states that a victim’s past sexual history (their “lack of chastity” in legalese), their consent, or ignorance of the victim’s age cannot be used as a defense. So, what’s left?

To mount a vigorous legal defense to statutory rape, it’s crucial that you have a skilled lawyer. Statutory rape charges cannot be defended against in the same way that regular rape charges can. Consent doesn’t matter because statutory rape implies that the alleged victim was too young to consent. That means that a defense attorney must work with you to explore other possible avenues for defending you. This will include challenging the evidence that there was ever any form of a relationship.

Romeo & Juliet Exception

Because so much of statutory rape has to do with age, the Romeo and Juliet exception was enacted to protect “young lovers” who are in a relationship where one is over the age of consent and one is under.

As long as the younger partner is between 14-17 and the older partner is no more than 4 years older, charges may be dropped or reduced. That means that while you may not face the more serious of charges, you may still have some form of charges like corruption of a minor or lewd and lascivious exhibition.

What is the Punishment for Statutory Rape?

Statutory rape that involves an alleged victim between 16 and 17 and an adult who is 24 or older is a second-degree felony. This type of offense is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, 15 years of probation, and a fine of up to $10,000.

Statutory rape that involves a child under 16 will lead to stiffer penalties. These offenses have different legal names depending on the age of the alleged victim and the acts that were supposedly perpetrated on them.

For example, Florida Statute 800.04 states:

“A person who intentionally touches in a lewd or lascivious manner the breasts, genitals, genital area, or buttocks, or the clothing covering them, of a person less than 16 years of age, or forces or entices a person under 16 years of age to so touch the perpetrator, commits lewd or lascivious molestation.”

Depending on the age of the two individuals, this can be a third-degree felony, a second-degree felony, or a life felony. The latter is the most serious and can result in life imprisonment—which means it’s crucial that you hire a good lawyer.

If there is penetration of the alleged victim, the charge becomes one of lewd and lascivious battery, which is a first-degree felony.

As with most criminal charges, if you have a criminal history, especially one that includes similar charges, you will be punished more severely if you are convicted as a repeat offender.

If convicted of any of these statutory rape charges or related sex charges, you may also be required to register as a sex offender. This means your name will be added to a virtual database that can be searched by future partners, neighbors, and employers. Being on the sex registry can make life much harder. In addition to having to regularly checking in with law enforcement and submitting updates such as new addresses, phone numbers, and social media accounts, you also face the stigma that comes with being on such a list. You may find it harder to find a job, secure a loan, rent a home, go to college, and more. People on the sex registry are often treated like pariahs in their neighborhood.

What Should I Do if I am Charged with Statutory Rape?

If you have been charged with a crime—especially one as serious as statutory rape—it’s vital that you seek qualified legal representation. Statutory rape carries steep penalties—make sure you can adequately defend yourself in court.

Mike G is a former sex crime prosecutor. With over 25 years of experience in the courtroom, he strongly advocates for his clients and helps ensure their rights are protected, regardless of the crimes with which they are charged.

Everyone deserves a great defense—make sure you have someone fighting for you. Contact Mike G Law today to discuss your case and start protecting your future.