Sexual Activity With a 16 or 17 Year Old

Florida law specifically addresses situations in which a teenager has consensual sexual relations with a young adult. In these scenarios, the offender may be absolved of the responsibility of registering as a sex offender if he or she meets the eligibility requirements of the “Romeo and Juliet” law.

Unlawful Sexual Activity With Certain Minors

Under Florida statute 794.05, a person can be convicted of unlawful sexual activity with a minor if he or she is 24 years of age or older and:
  • Engages in consensual sexual activity
  • With a person who is 16 or 17 years old
Sexual activity includes:
  • Oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by someone else’s sexual organ
  • The anal or vaginal penetration of another by any object
If the minor alleges that the sexual activity was not consensual, the defendant’s charges could be increased to sexual battery. Furthermore, this law specifically applies to 16 and 17-year-olds, with the exception of those with mental disabilities. This is because 16 years old is considered the youngest age that a teenager can consent to sexual relations with another person. For this reason, even if a 15-year-old verbally consented to sex with someone under the age of 24 years old, his or her partner could be charged with rape.

Florida law does not allow defendants to raise certain defenses, including that:
  • The victim lied about his or her age
  • The victim had a reputation of promiscuity
  • They did not know how old the victim was
  • They legitimately believed that the victim was 18 years of age or older
Although there are other defenses available to defendants, Florida law specifically precludes them from raising these arguments. For instance, a defendant could argue that the victim made false allegations. These allegations are, unfortunately, relatively common and are usually driven by jealousy or manipulation of a minor by an angry parent. If a defendant was under the age of 24 years old at the time of the encounter, he or she would also be able to escape conviction, as long as the sexual activity was consensual and the victim was at least 16 years old.


Those who are convicted of unlawful sexual activity with a minor will face second-degree felony penalties, which could mean up to 15 years in prison, 15 years of sex offender probation, and a $10,000 fine. A defendant who was convicted of this offense would also be declared a sexual offender, which would require them to comply with specific reporting requirements for the rest of their lives. Failure to report as required or to comply with all of the sex offender registry rules can result in additional second-degree felony charges. It can also make it much more difficult to obtain employment or housing, as the list is made public to the community in which the person lives. However, if an offender is later pardoned or has his or her judgment set aside, then he or she will be taken off of the register and no longer required to comply with its restrictions.

Romeo and Juliet Exception

The single exception to the mandatory sex offender registration rule is known as the “Romeo and Juliet” law, Florida Statute 943.04354, which was passed to give youthful offenders who are convicted of statutory sex crimes, the option of avoiding a lifetime on the country’s sex offender registry. Before a court will consider allowing defendants to use this exception, they must first demonstrate that they satisfy all of the eligibility requirements. This requires defendants to prove that:
  • They were convicted of either sexual battery or a lewd or lascivious offense
  • The offense involved a consensual encounter with a minor between the ages of 14 and 17 years old
  • The defendant was no more than four years older than the victim at the time of the sexual encounter
  • Registration as a sex offender is solely based on that single conviction
  • The petitioner was not convicted of any other sex crimes
The four year age difference factor is strictly construed by courts. This means that even if a defendant is only one day past the four-year limit, he or she will still be ineligible for the exception. It a defendant satisfies all of these requirements, the court may remove the requirement that he or she register as a sex offender. However, the decision remains discretionary, so just because a defendant fulfills all of the criteria does not mean that he or she will automatically be removed from the sex offender registry. Furthermore, even if the defendant’s name is removed from the registry, the public will still have access to information about his or her criminal record.
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