Rape under Florida law is known as “sexual battery.” It is one of the most aggressively prosecuted crimes, and it requires an enterprising defense.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) reports there are approximately 10,300 forcible sex offenses committed in the state each year. Only a fraction result in arrest, and thousands of rape kits in the state remain untested. That does not mean you can leave your case to chance.
At The Ansara Law Firm, we know many of these cases are complicated by the fact that it’s often a matter of the defendant’s words against those of the accuser.
Sexual battery, as defined in F.S. 794.011 covers a host of different actions, but is generally understood to mean the non-consensual penetration or union with a sexual organ or mouth by another sexual organ or object. The question of who can give consent and when is often a key issue in these cases because under the law, consent isn’t necessarily defined through refusal or physical resistance.
If you are accused of rape in Florida, you must seek counsel of an experienced rape defense attorney. If convicted of rape in Florida, you face not only severe criminal penalties such as long-term imprisonment and hefty fines, but also the many consequences that follow for years after your release. These include:
- Involuntary and indefinite civil commitment
- Registration as a sex offender (affecting one’s ability to find work, housing, education and social assistance)
- Civil restitution
There are many strategies our team of criminal defense attorneys employ to fight for a dismissal or reduction of charges. One of the best decisions you can make early on in your case – even before arrest – is to refuse to answer any questions from law enforcement until you have retained a lawyer.What is Sexual Battery?
Sexual battery occurs when a person engages in a sexual act with another who does not or cannot consent.
Those who are not able to give consent include:
- Those who are mentally defective. This means they suffer from a mental disease or defect which renders that person temporarily or permanently unable to appraise the nature of his or her conduct.
- A person who is mentally incapacitated. This means they are temporarily incapable of judging or controlling their own actions because they are under the influence of a narcotic, anesthetic or intoxicating substance.
- A person who is physically incapacitated. This means the individual is either bodily impaired or handicapped and they are severely limited in their ability to flee or resist.
- A person who is underage. Children under the age of 12 cannot give consent to sexual acts no matter the circumstances. Florida’s age of consent is 18, but there are provisions that allow 16- and 17-year-olds to have sex with someone between the ages of 16 and 23, provided the victim is at least 14 and the offender is no more than four years older.
The term “forcible” for purposes of the law doesn’t necessarily just mean brute physical force. It could mean:
- Victim is physically or mentally helpless to resist;
- Offender coerces the victim to submit to a sexual act by threat to use force or violence, where the victim has a reasonable belief offender has means to carry out that threat;
- Offender coerces victim into submission by threat of retaliation;
- Offender, without victim’s knowledge or prior consent, administers or knows someone else has administered a drug or other substance that incapacitates the victim;
- Offender is a law enforcement, corrections or probation officer or other person in a position of custodial authority and the victim is under his or her control.
With so many variations and interpretations of the statute, it is understandable that many of those accused of sexual battery are caught completely off-guard.Penalty for Sexual Battery
In general, sexual battery is considered a second-degree felony under Florida law, and it’s assigned a Level 8 offense severity ranking.
That means a judge will be required to impose a minimum mandatory term of 34.5 months in prison. Other penalty options include:
- Maximum 15 years in prison.
- Maximum 15 years on sex offender probation.
- Maximum $10,000 in fines.
Of course, there are a number of potentially aggravating circumstances that could increase the punishment. For example, sexual battery on a child under 12 by a person over the age of 18 is considered a capital felony. It’s considered a life felony when a person under 18 commits sexual battery on a person under 12.
Other aggravating factors would be the use of a firearm, prior convictions for violent or sexually-motivated offenses or infliction of serious physical injury to the accused.
All of these, of course, are in addition to the irreparable damage to one’s reputation, as well as loss of employment or career opportunities and estrangement from family.Defenses to Sexual Battery
There are a number of standard pretrial and trial defenses that can be explored in any criminal case. These include raising questions of illegal search and seizure, statute of limitations issues, various motions to suppress or a general lack of evidence sufficiency.
Beyond that and specific to sexual battery cases, we would want to carefully examine the issues of consent and whether it’s plausible the accused has been misidentified or the accusation is totally false.
It’s important to note that the criminal statute of limitations for rape cases is eight years. This was doubled in 2015 from four years by Florida legislators.
Contact the experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (954) 761-4011 or toll-free at (877)-ARREST-0 (277-3780).