Some defendants are initially shocked when charged with unlawful sexual contact with a minor, or statutory rape as it is commonly called. They may be surprised because they believed their partner was older or because their partner gave their consent. However, the law is clear on what defines statutory rape in Florida and who can and cannot consent to sexual activity.
If you are trying to make sense of your statutory rape charge in Florida, hiring a skilled defense attorney is key. A statutory rape conviction can have lifelong consequences and it’s important that you receive the best legal counsel so you can put forward the best defense for your case. The following are some frequently asked questions regarding what qualifies as statutory rape in Florida, the age of consent, the Romeo & Juliet law and more.
What is considered statutory rape in Florida?
In Florida, Statute 794.04 defines sexual activity between a person 24 years old or older and an individual 16 or 17 years old as a second-degree felony. Sexual activity, in this context, includes oral, anal or vaginal intercourse or penetration. Essentially, statutory rape occurs when one individual is under the age of consent, while the other is 24 years old or older. Statutory rape also includes cases where both parties are minors and where one individual is considered unable to consent because of a mental disability or defect or because of physical or mental incapacitation.
While commonly called “statutory rape”, the Florida justice system terms it “unlawful sexual activity with a minor,” which falls under the umbrella of sexual battery.
What is the age of consent in Florida?
The age of consent is the legally recognized age when an individual is believed capable of making decisions regarding sexual activity. In Florida, the age of consent is 18.
However, some individuals are believed to be unable to consent because of an inability to understand what they are consenting to because they are incapacitated or because they are physically helpless.
In the first scenario, an individual may be considered “mentally defective,” meaning they have a mental disorder or defect that keeps them from being able to lawfully consent.
Individuals under the influence of drugs or alcohol may be considered mentally incapacitated and unable to consciously consent to sexual activity. Whereas a victim who is unconscious or unable to communicate may be considered physically helpless, and thus unable to consent to sexual activity.
Who can report a statutory rape in Florida?
In Florida, there are three parties that can press charges if they believe someone has been the victim of statutory rape.
The parents of a minor can bring criminal or civil charges against an alleged perpetrator. They do not need their child’s cooperation to do so. In addition, the State can also file charges without the cooperation of the minor victim.
The minor victim, upon turning 18, can file a civil suit against the accused for physical or emotional distress. He or she has until their 25th birthday to do so.
My partner consented, why am I being charged with statutory rape?
Even if your partner gave consent, if he or she is younger than the age of consent in Florida (18), you can be charged with statutory rape. Those younger than 18 are not believed capable of giving consent to sexual activity. That means that their stated consent is not legally valid.
In addition, individuals who do not meet the standard of consent because of mental defect or disability or incapacitation are not considered legally able to consent to sexual activity. Even if both parties are 17, for example, if one party is considered unable to consent, the other party can be charged with statutory rape.
What if the “victim” lied about his or her age?
Unfortunately, even if the younger party misled the older party about their age, the older party can still be charged with statutory rape. In Florida, an accused cannot claim ignorance of the alleged victim’s age as a defense against statutory rape.
What is the “Romeo and Juliet” law?
What happens if an 18 and a 17-year-old engage in sexual activity?
A close in age exemption may lead to a prosecutor choosing not to file charges.
By Florida law, the 17-year-old is not old enough to provide consent, however, there is an exemption to the statutory rape law. Sometimes called the “Romeo and Juliet” law (pdf) after Shakespeare’s star-crossed Veronan lovers, a close in age exemption may apply to couples where one party is 16 or 17 years old and the other party is 23 years old or younger.
What is the punishment for statutory rape in Florida?
Statutory rape in Florida carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of $10,000 for first-time offenders. Stiffer penalties apply to habitual offenders and can include up to 40 years or life in prison. For more information about possible punishments, discuss your case with a qualified Tampa statutory rape attorney.
Seeking Help From a Statutory Rape Lawyer
Every case is different and every defendant deserves a thorough defense that takes into account all factors. Protect your future with a skilled Tampa defense lawyer ready to fight for your rights.
A statutory rape conviction can derail a young person’s life. To ensure that you or a loved one receive the best defense, it’s important to seek a committed statutory rape lawyer with experience handling such cases.
Mike G Law is committed to providing our clients a vigorous defense. I understand the pressure under which prosecutors work and the mistakes that can be made by an overzealous system focused on convictions instead of people. I believe that everyone has the right to the best defense and work with my clients as a partner to ensure their side of the story is told.
Don’t let a statutory rape conviction waylay your life. Discuss your case with a qualified Tampa statutory rape lawyer—contact Mike G Law today.