Florida Sexual Abuse Law

The law under which someone is prosecuted for committing sexual abuse depends on the age of the victim. For instance, when the victim was a minor, sexual abuse falls under the category of child molestation. However, when a victim was an adult, his or her alleged assailant will be prosecuted under Florida’s sexual battery law.

Child Sexual Abuse

In Florida, a person can be convicted of sexual abuse against a child, or child molestation, if he or she committed any lewd or lascivious act upon the body of or in the presence of a minor in order to gratify sexual desires. Those who are convicted of this offense have committed a second-degree felony, which is punishable by 15 years in prison. Lewd or lascivious conduct includes:
  • Engaging in sexual activity with a person who is over the age of 12 years old, but under the age of 16 years old; or
  • Encouraging, forcing, or enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity.
To be considered sexual activity, an act must involve oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by a sexual organ or any other object. Although there are a number of defenses available to defendants who have been accused of sexual abuse against a child, they are specifically prohibited from arguing that:
  • The victim was promiscuous;
  • The victim consented to the sexual activity;
  • He or she did not know that the minor was underage;
  • The victim misrepresented his or her age; or
  • The victim misrepresented his or her age; or
Child molestation is generally charged as a second-degree felony, although the charge can be increased to a first-degree felony if the defendant is over the age of 18 years old. A defendant may also be charged with lewd or lascivious molestation if he or she intentionally touched the genital area, buttocks, or breasts of a victim under the age of 16 years old. An adult who is convicted of this offense whose victim was under the age of 12 years old has committed a life felony. However, if the defendant is less than 18 years old he or she will instead be charged with a second-degree felony. The charge can be further reduced to a third-degree felony if the perpetrator was under the age of 18 years old and the victim was over the age of 12, but younger than 16 years old.

Sexual Battery

When a victim is an adult, his or her alleged offender will be prosecuted under the state’s sexual battery law, which is contained in Florida Statute 794.011 and covers rape and other forms of sexual assault. A person can be convicted of sexual battery if he or she had non-consensual intercourse with a victim, which is a second-degree felony and punishable by up to 15 years in prison, if the defendant is not accused of using violence or physical force likely to cause an injury during the encounter.

Aggravated Sexual Abuse

Although those accused of sexual battery are usually charged with a second-degree felony, the charge can be increased to a life felony if the abuse occurred under any of the following circumstances:
  • The victim was physically incapacitated and substantially limited in his or her ability to flee or resist;
  • The victim was coerced into submission by threats of force or violence likely to cause injury;
  • The defendant threatened to retaliate against the victim or another person if he or she failed to submit, which could include threats of future kidnapping, false imprisonment, or forcible confinement, as well as extortion;
  • The defendant administered an incapacitating date rape drug, such as an anesthetic, narcotic, or other intoxicating substance to the victim without his or her knowledge;
  • The victim had a mental defect that rendered him or her temporarily or permanently unable to understand the nature of the conduct and the defendant was aware of the defect; or
  • The offender was a law enforcement officer.
Life felonies are punishable by life in prison.

Defenses to Sexual Battery

Those who are charged with sexual battery cannot raise defenses involving allegations of the victim’s promiscuity. However, defendants can argue that the alleged victim consented to the sexual conduct, although to satisfy the definition of consent, the court must find that the consent was knowing and intelligent. A person who was incapacitated or drugged will not be deemed to have given consent. Furthermore, a lack of physical resistance will not be considered acquiescence. Finally, a defendant can argue that he or she has been falsely accused.
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