The legal definition of statutory rape in Florida depends on the age of the people engaged in sexual activity. Generally, statutory rape involves an adult engaging in sexual activity with a minor. However, there are exceptions to that rule. Since the potential criminal penalties for statutory rape include many years in prison, registration as a sex offender, and other serious consequences, it’s essential to understand the law and how you can defend yourself with the help of a board certified Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer.
What Statutory Rape Means in Florida
In Florida, you may be charged with statutory rape if you are:
- Over the age of 18 and engage in sexual activity with someone under the age of 16. People under the age of 16 cannot provide legal consent to sexual activity in Florida. However, this law has limited exceptions, which will be discussed below.
- Over the age of 24 and engage in sexual activity with a 16 or 17-year-old. 16 and 17-year-olds cannot provide legal consent to sexual activity with people who are 24 years old or older.
A conviction could change your life.
Florida Statutory Rape PenaltiesThe possible penalties for statutory rape can change your life. If you are convicted of statutory rape in Florida, you may face:
Prison TimePrison time may range from five years to life in prison. Specifically, you face:
- Life in prison if you are 18 or older and the alleged victim was under the age of 12
- 15 years in prison if you are 18 or older and the alleged victim was 12 – 15 years old
- Five years in prison if you are under 18 and the alleged victim was 12 – 16 years old
Sex Offender RegistryYou must register as a sex offender if you are convicted of statutory rape in Florida. The Sex Offender Registry is public and searchable by employers, landlords, interested neighbors, and others. Once you are on the registry, it is challenging to come off the registry. Failing to register according to the requirements of Florida law is a third-degree felony.
Other PenaltiesYou could also face additional criminal penalties from a statutory rape conviction, including:
- Fines of up to $10,000
- Community service
- Mandatory counseling
- House arrest
You must be convicted or agree to a plea agreement before any penalty is imposed.
Potential Defenses in Florida Statutory Rape CasesIgnorance of the alleged victim’s age is not a defense to statutory rape in Florida. Similarly, the consent of an underage person is not a defense to statutory rape in most cases. However, there are possible defenses that your Florida sex crimes defense lawyer will consider if you’re charged with statutory rape.
The Romeo and Juliet Defense
The Romeo and Juliet defense can be used in a statutory rape case if the individuals involved are close in age and engaged in a consensual relationship.
The defense hinges on the principle that prosecuting young individuals who are only a few years apart in age for consensual sexual activity undermines the intent of age of consent laws, which primarily seek to protect minors from exploitation and non-consensual sexual activity.
For the Romeo and Juliet defense to be effective, certain conditions must be met:
- The alleged victim must be between 14 and 17 years old
- You must be no more than four years older than the alleged victim
- The sexual activity must have been consensual
The Romeo and Juliet defense does not make the sexual activity legal. You could still face a criminal conviction and sentence. However, it would keep you off of the Sex Offender Registry and prevent you from the lifelong consequences of being labeled as a sex offender.
You may be able to defend yourself against statutory rape charges by:
- Explaining why the prosecution has not proved its case against you
- Disputing evidence
- Raising a statute of limitations defense
An experienced sex crimes defense lawyer will consider every aspect of your case and explain your legal options to you.