Florida Rape Law

Florida law does not provide a specific legal definition of rape. For this reason, to obtain a conviction for rape in Florida, prosecutors are required to prove the elements of sexual battery, which also encompasses the crime of rape.

Necessary Elements

In order to be convicted of rape, the state is required to prove that the defendant:
  • Orally, vaginally, or anally penetrated another person with a sexual organ or another object; and
  • Did so without the other party’s consent.
If, however, the victim is under the age of 12 years old, prosecutors are not required to prove that he or she did not consent to the sexual activity. Instead, the lack of consent will be presumed based on the victim’s youth and immaturity. Otherwise, the prosecution must demonstrate that the alleged victim did not voluntarily give his or her consent to the defendant. Unlike other states, this does not mean that the prosecutor must prove that the victim resisted or protested, but need only provide evidence of a lack of consent. Furthermore, coercion or threats of harm are enough to constitute force, even when no physical violence was actually used.

What Constitutes Consent?

Consent must be knowing, intelligent, and voluntary in order to satisfy the legal definition of consent contained Florida Statute 794.011. Furthermore, failing to physically resist an offender is not considered consent. In fact, even if a victim verbally consents, it will not be deemed legally sufficient if it was given as a result of coerced submission or out of fear of the assailant.

Sentencing Guidelines

Those convicted of rape under Florida’s sexual battery law are sentenced based on a series of factors, including:
  • The respective ages of the defendant and the other party;
  • Whether the defendant used any weapons during the encounter; and
  • The extent of the injuries suffered by the victim.
For example, if a defendant is accused of rape and both parties were over the age of 12 years old, he or she can be charged with a second-degree felony, which is punishable by as much as 15 years in prison. However, the charge can be increased to a first-degree felony if the evidence demonstrates that:
  • The defendant used threats or coercive tactics against the victim during the encounter and the victim believed that the offender had the present ability to execute the threat;
  • The defendant coerced the victim into submitting by threatening to retaliate against him or her or another person and the victim believed that the defendant had the ability to do so;
  • The victim was physically incapacitated at the time of the incident, which includes physical impairment, disability, and handicaps;
  • The victim was mentally incapacitated, which includes situations where the victim was unable to control his or her own conduct as a result of consuming alcohol, narcotics, or anesthetics;
  • The victim was physically helpless, unconscious, asleep, or otherwise unable to communicate or withdraw consent;
  • The defendant administered or knew that someone else had administered a narcotic or other intoxicating substance that incapacitated the victim;
  • The defendant knew that the victim had a mental handicap; or
  • The defendant was a law enforcement officer or an elected official who led the victim to believe that he or she was in a position of authority as a government agent.
First-degree felonies can lead to a prison sentence of up to 30 years. However, when a victim is under the age of 12 years old and the defendant is over 18 years old, the charge can be increased further to a capital felony, which is punishable by life imprisonment or death. If the defendant was under the age of 18 years old, on the other hand, the charge will be reduced to a life felony regardless of the circumstances involved. Rape can also be charged as a life felony if the defendant:
  • Used a deadly weapon during the commission of the offense; or
  • Used enough physical force to cause a serious bodily injury, including great bodily harm or pain, permanent disfigurement, or permanent disability.

Possible Defenses to Rape Charges

Florida law prevents defendants from raising certain defenses in rape cases. For instance, defendants are not permitted to bring up an accuser’s prior sexual conduct, sexual history, or general promiscuity. Furthermore, in cases involving underage victims, defendants are not permitted to raise the defense of mistake or a lack of knowledge of the minor’s age. However, defendants are permitted to argue that voluntary, knowing, and intelligent consent was given by the victim before the sexual conduct occurred.
Newsweek Super Lawyers BBB Avvo The National Trials Lawyers