Lewd and Lascivious Crimes
Florida state prisons house on average more than 5,200 at any given time convicted of lewd and lascivious crimes, according to the Florida Department of Corrections. At The Ansara Law Firm, our goal is to make sure you don’t become one of them.
Lewd and lascivious offenses under state law include a broad range of criminal activity, including molestation, battery, conduct and exhibition.
F.S. 800.02 – 800.09 details the state’s definitions of the various acts and circumstances under which lewd and lascivious charges may be filed. Penalties are spelled out there too, and can range from a stint on probation to several years in prison with a sex offender registration requirement.
The outcome of your case is going to depend heavily on the details of the alleged crime, the age of the victim, whether there was actual physical contact and whether you have a prior similar history. Also a critical factor: The skill and experience of your defense attorney.What are Lewd and Lascivious Acts?
When we talk about lewd and lascivious acts, we’re discussing offenses that are sexually-motivated.
- Lewd is a term to describe acts that are indecent, obscene and preoccupied with sex and crude sexual desire.
- Lascivious, meanwhile, means given to or expression of lust or exciting sexual desire.
In order for these acts to be considered criminal, they have to go beyond merely a disregard for decent proprieties and consideration for others. These are acts that are considered an unlawful sexual indulgence.
The most commonly-charged crimes under this umbrella are lewd or lascivious offenses committed upon or in the presence of children under the age of 16. These offenses are codified in F.S. 800.04.
- Lewd or Lascivious Battery. This is when someone either engages a person between the ages of 12 and 16 in sexual activity OR encourages, forces or entices a person under the age of 16 to engage in any conduct involving sexual activity. This is usually filed as a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. However, it may also be charged as a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison, if defendant was over age 18 AND he or she produced child pornography during the encounter, or kidnapped, falsely imprisoned, sexually battered the minor.
- Lewd or Lascivious Molestation. This is when a defendant intentionally touches a child under 16 in a lewd or lascivious manner on the breasts, genitals, buttocks or general areas. It doesn’t matter if the child was wearing clothing at the time. It can also be charged if defendant forces or entices the child under 16 to touch defendant in such a manner. Penalties for this action vary, depending on the age of both parties involved and the details of the incident. For example, if the offender is over the age of 18 and the alleged victim is under the age of 12, it’s considered a life felony, punishable by life in prison. A defendant who is under 18 who molests someone under the of 12 or a defendant over 18 who molests someone between the ages of 12 and 16 will face a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. A person under 18 who molests someone between the ages of 12 and 16 will face a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.
- Lewd or Lascivious Conduct. This is when a person intentionally touches someone under the age of 16 in a lewd or lascivious way or compels a person under 16 to commit a lewd or lascivious act. Here again, the age of the offender and victim matters. A defendant over 18 will be facing a second-degree felony ( 15 years in prison), while a defendant under 18 will be facing a third-degree felony (five years in prison).
- Lewd or Lascivious Exhibition. This is when a person intentionally masturbates, exposes his or genitals in a lewd or lascivious way or commits some other sexual act in the presence of a person under the age of 16 that doesn’t involve any actual physical or sexual contact with the victim. An over-18 defendant faces a second-degree felony (15 years in prison) while the under-18 defendant will be staring down a third-degree felony (up to five years in prison).
There is another vaguely-written offense outlined in F.S. 800.02 called, “Committing an Unnatural and Lascivious Act.” It is described broadly as the commission of any “unnatural and lascivious act with another person.” Generally, this statute is used as a plea bargain tool for the other more serious offenses. It’s a second-degree misdemeanor, which means defendant faces a maximum 60 days in jail. In cases where a prosecutor may refuse to drop all charges entirely, your defense lawyer might instead propose a plea bargain involving this lesser offense.Defenses to Lewd and Lascivious Charges
First, we need to point out that the victim’s alleged lack of chastity cannot be used as a defense in these cases, and neither can the victim’s consent. Minors cannot legally consent to sexual activity with adults except in very limited circumstances. Further, it will not matter if defendant did not know the alleged victim was a minor or even if the minor told defendant he or she was an adult.
To give you a sense of how seriously these matters are taken in Florida, consider that in 2014, the governor signed into law a series of bills that would bolster possible penalties for those convicted of certain sex crimes. As it pertained to lewd and lascivious battery and lewd and lascivious molestation, F.S. 775.15(18) stipulates that there is no statute of limitations for these crimes if the victim was under age 16 at the time of the alleged offense. The only exception to this rule would be if defendant was under 18 at the time of the offense and he or she was not more than four years older than the alleged victim.
While most individuals convicted of lewd and lascivious battery or molestation will be designated sex offenders, there are exceptions under the state’s “Romeo and Juliet” laws. These provisions allow defendants who were close in age to an alleged victim to avoid mandatory registration, so long as the minor was a willing participant in the sexual activity.
Potential defenses that can be raised include assertions of false accusations (made out of jealousy, manipulation of a child by a parent, mental illness of the accused, etc.) or lack of sufficient evidence.
Contact the experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (954) 761-4011 or toll-free at (954) 761-4011.