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Statutory Rape

The statutory rape law in Florida is clear: It is illegal for an adult over the age of 18 to have sex with a minor who is younger than 18.

The minor’s obvious consent is not relevant, and that’s what makes so many of these cases heartbreaking. Often, we’re talking about two young people who both willingly participated in the relationship, but neither fully grasped the consequences. We’ve seen instances where high school seniors face second-degree felonies for sexual contact with freshmen.

There are limited exceptions for when a minor has sex with an adult who is close in age. Coined the “Romeo and Juliet” law after the young Shakespearean lovers, the measure is intended to protect teens who engage in consensual sexual activity with a peer who is just above or below that age threshold.

However, this provision is only applicable in some cases, and it won’t protect all teens or young adults from legal action.

At The Ansara Law Firm, we know conviction for statutory rape in Florida carries severe penalties that can have a lifelong impact on one’s freedom and future. These include:

  • Imprisonment
  • Fines
  • Community Service
  • Mandatory Counseling
  • Sex Offender Registration
  • Probation
  • House Arrest

Having a knowledgeable, experienced legal advocate in your corner is imperative.

What is Statutory Rape?

Florida’s statutory rape law is codified in F.S. 794.05.

Generally, the age of consent in Florida is 18. However, minors who are 16 and 17 can consent to intercourse with anyone up to age 24, and no crime is committed – unless the minor is disabled.

The law says that if a person who is 24 or older engages in sexual activity with a person who is 16 or 17, he or she commits a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Penalties are more severe when the minor involved is younger than 16. Sexual activity in this case means oral, vaginal or anal union with or penetration of another by any object.

If a 16- or 17-year-old alleged victim has had the “disabilities of nonage” removed – meaning he or she has successfully petitioned the court under F.S. 743 to be granted the rights of an adult – then the older person in the relationship has not committed statutory rape.

It’s important to note that the prior sexual conduct of the alleged victim isn’t going to matter in the prosecution of these cases.

Even minors can be prosecuted for sexual conduct with other minors. For example, F.S. 800.04(5)(d) holds that an offender less than 18 years of age who intentionally touches in a lewd or lascivious manner the breasts, genitals, genital area or buttocks of a person older than 12 but younger than 16 is guilty of a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. Another portion of the law states that it’s a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, for a person over 18 to engage in sexual contact with a person between the ages of 12 and 16.

The statutes specifically states that consent is not a defense for this crime.

Another troubling fact: The defendant’s ignorance of the alleged victim’s age – even if the alleged victim lied about or misrepresented his or her age – is not a valid defense that can be raised in these cases.

Why Have Statutory Rape Laws?

The rationale behind statutory rape laws is that before a child reaches the age of 18 (or 16 in some states), he or she isn’t capable of consenting to intercourse. The law supposes that even if a young person enthusiastically agrees to engage in sexual intercourse, that act isn’t consensual because the youth doesn’t have the mental capacity to consent.

Of course, everything we know about the sexual behavior of teenagers tells us otherwise. Many teens possess sufficient maturity and social skills needed to make informed decisions about sex.

Florida’s “Romeo and Juliet” Law

Florida’s “Romeo and Juliet” law was passed during the 2007 state legislative session to address concerns regarding high school students being labeled as sexual predators or sexual offenders for participation in consensual sexual relationships.

The law that was passed allows for relief from sex offender registration for certain offenders. F.S. 943.04354 allows a person to file a motion or petition for removal of the requirement to register as a sexual offender or predator who meet specific criteria. Most notably:

  • The victim must have been at least 14 at the time of the alleged offense;
  • The offender can be no more than four years older than the victim at the time of offense;
  • Victim must have consented to the sexual conduct.

Even if granted, this only addresses the registry requirement. It doesn’t make the underlying offense legal. If the victim was 15-years-old or younger – even if he or she consented – the actual sexual act is still considered criminal.

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.

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