Florida Child Molestation Law

In Florida, child molestation falls under the crime of lewd or lascivious molestation. Chapter 800.04 of the Florida Statutes declare that lewd and lascivious are synonyms and have been defined as meaning an intent that is:
  • Wicked
  • Lustful
  • Unchaste
  • Licentious
  • Sensual
A person can be convicted of this crime if he or she:
  • Intentionally touches a minor under the age of 16 years old in a sexual manner.
  • Forces a minor under the age of 16 years old to touch him or her in a sexual manner.

Florida Statute Chapter 774.082

Florida Statute Chapter 774.082 states that the consequences that a person faces for a child molestation conviction depend in large part on his or her age and the age of the alleged victim. For instance, a person who is over the age of 18 years old and is accused of molesting a child under the age of 12 years old can be charged with a life felony, which is punishable by life in prison.

However, someone who is a minor and molests someone under the age of 12 years old will be charged with a second-degree felony, as will an 18-year-old who is accused of molesting someone older than 12 years of age, but younger than 16 years old. Second-degree felonies are punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Finally, someone under the age 18 years old who is charged with molesting someone between the age of 12 and 16 years old will face the consequences of a third-degree felony, which could mean a five-year prison sentence and a $5,000 fine.

Multiple Convictions

When a person is over the age of 18 years old and is convicted of molesting a minor under the age of 16 years old, but has already committed one of the following offenses, he or she can be charged with a first-degree felony:
  • Lewd or lascivious molestation
  • Sexual battery
  • Lewd or lascivious offenses committed upon the person or in the presence of an elderly or disabled person
  • Soliciting sexual contact with a minor via computer
In Florida, first degree felonies are punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Defenses and Chapter 943 of the Florida Statutes

Child molestation is a strict liability crime, which means that defendants are automatically barred from arguing that they were unaware of the child’s age or that the child consented to the sexual act. Fortunately, there are some other available defenses, such as the Romeo and Juliet exception. According to Chapter 943, a person is not required to register as a sex offender if:
  • He or she was convicted of sexual battery or a lewd or lascivious offense
  • The offense involved a consensual sexual encounter with a teenage minor
  • The minor was no more than four years younger than the defendant
  • The defendant does not have a history of committing sexual crimes
Additional defenses include:
  • A lack of lewd intent
  • False allegations by an angry parent or someone with a mental illness
Although raising these defenses does not guarantee that a person will not be convicted of a sexual offense, it can help convince a judge to reduce the charge.
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