When people get charged with a crime, the first thing they want to know is how to get out of trouble. It is not uncommon for our clients to ask how to get out of statutory rape charges in Florida. That’s perfectly natural.
Statutory rape charges in Florida are incredibly serious. When the government levels these charges at you, you need to understand the potential consequences, the evidence against you, and the defenses that might work best for your situation. Don’t ask just anyone. In Orlando, the experienced criminal defense lawyers with Moses & Rooth will review your case for free and defend you every step of the way.
What Is Statutory Rape?
Statutory rape in Florida falls under the state’s sexual battery law. Sexual battery is oral, anal, or female genital penetration or union with the sexual organ of another, including insertion of another object without consent.
Consent has a specific legal definition as well. Under Florida law, consent means intelligent, knowing, and voluntary agreement to an act that was not coerced. Failing to resist the act physically does not constitute consent. And if the victim was under duress or coerced, that does not count as consent either.
Statutory rape in Florida is a second-degree felony if both parties are under 18 but older than 12. A person older than 18 who commits sexual battery on a child older than 12 faces first-degree felony charges.
Statutory rape charges in Florida carry heavy prison sentences. Second-degree felony convictions carry up to 15 years in state prison. However, a first-degree felony conviction has a maximum 30-year prison sentence but could be life in some cases.
In addition to long prison sentences, a person convicted of statutory rape has to register as a sex offender. However, the sentencing judge can issue an order relieving you of that burden if the victim was at least 13 and you were not more than four years older.
Florida law contains a loophole. Section 794.05 of the Florida statutes indicates that a person 24 years or older who engages in sexual activity with a child who is 16 or 17 faces a second-degree felony. The law seems to imply that people who are at least 16 can have sex without fear of prosecution, provided that one of them is not older than 23.
Can Statutory Rape Charges Be Dropped?
Florida law gives prosecutors tremendous authority to both issue and dismiss charges. But most do not dismiss charges easily or lightly.
Also, contrary to popular belief, the alleged victim of a crime does not control the prosecution. The alleged victim might be the state’s star witness, but they do not dictate if a case gets dropped or proceeds. The prosecutor is the only person who can do that. So if the prosecutor feels they have enough evidence to continue even in the victim’s absence, they often go forward with the charges.
However, while it is not controlling, victim input could convince the prosecutor to drop the charges against you. Prosecutors do not dismiss statutory rape charges without a compelling reason. They are wary of the alleged perpetrator’s undue influence, coercion, or intimidation as a reason why the victim doesn’t want to prosecute.
But working with lawyers who have a sterling reputation for integrity can insulate you from accusations of witness intimidation. At Moses & Rooth, we are former prosecutors who understand how difficult it is to dismiss a statutory rape charge. We know from experience that prosecutors usually err on the side of caution. That’s why we often rely on our reputations to help achieve the best outcome for our clients. The prosecutors we deal with know who we are, what we are all about, and that we are trustworthy. If you are our client, this often works in your favor.
Defenses to Statutory Rape
The best defenses depend on the facts of your case. However, Florida law strictly prohibits you from trying to admit certain types of evidence at trial.
First, you cannot offer evidence of previous incidents of the alleged victim’s sexual conduct as a defense. Additionally, ignorance of the alleged victim’s true age is not a defense, even if you held a bona fide belief but were simply mistaken. Misrepresentation of age by the alleged victim is not a defense either.
But rest assured that these strict evidentiary laws do not deter experienced and skilled lawyers. Your lawyer could potentially discredit the alleged victim or the law enforcement investigators involved in your case in many ways. Additionally, your lawyers might be able to argue a motion to dismiss or suppress evidence based on the illegality of law enforcement conduct.
The best defense starts by contacting knowledgeable defense lawyers right away. The sooner aggressive defense attorneys get involved, the better chance you have.
Call Us to Learn More About How to Get Out of Statutory Rape Charges in Florida
Call 407-377-0150 for a free consultation with one of our aggressive defense attorneys. We have over 36 years of legal experience handling some of the most difficult cases in central Florida. We are the ones to call when your future hangs in the balance.