Florida Statutory Rape and the Age of Conent in Florida
Statutory rape (aka sex involving a minor below the age of consent in Florida) is a serious felony criminal charge which can result in penalties of up to life in prison if convicted. Further, statutory rape allegations carry a stigma that can have devastating consequences for your future aspirations, your career, and your standing within the community—to name just a few. If you’ve been charged with statutory rape, it is imperative that you speak with an experienced criminal attorney as soon as possible.
The Age of Consent in Florida is 18
The age-of-consent can be thought of as the minimum age at which an individual is said to be legally able to consent to participation in sexual activity. Under Florida law, it is said that children under the age of 18 are not legally able to consent to sexual activity, therefore such activity can lead to prosecution for statutory rape.
What is Statutory Rape in Florida?
In general, statutory rape refers to sexual relations between a minor (someone under the age of consent in florida) and an adult (someone over the age of 18). The rationale behind the law is that minors are incapable of consenting to sexual relations. In fact, the law presumes that sexual activities involving minors are inherently coercive.
The Florida “Close-In-Age” Exemption to Statutory Rape
Florida does have a “close-in-age” exemption. To prevent young lovers from being unjustly prosecuted for statutory rape, the law in Florida provides an exception allowing certain minors to have sexual relations with adults—provided they are relatively close in age. Under this exemption, minors aged 16 or 17 can lawfully engage in consensual sexual relations with adults who are under the age of 24.
Here are a few key takeaways regarding the law in Florida as it pertains to statutory rape:
- A child under 16 years of age cannot consent to sexual activity, regardless of the age of the defendant.
- A child who is at least 16 years of age and less than 18 years of age cannot consent to sexual activity if the defendant is 24 years of age or older.
To summarize everything above, if the defendant is over the age of 24, he cannot (under any circumstances) have sex with a minor that is less than 18 years of age. If the defendant is younger than 24, he or she can lawfully engage in sexual activity with a minor aged 16 or 17—provided the sexual activity was consensual. But remember, if the minor is younger than 16, there are no exemptions, and it is illegal no matter how young (or old) the defendant is.
Reasonable Mistake of Age is Not a Defense
Statutory rape is considered a strict liability crime. This means that it does not matter if the defendant didn’t know the victim was underage. In fact, it does not matter if the victim lied about his or her age. Ignorance or reasonable mistake as to the victim’s age is not a defense to Florida statutory rape charges.
Sex Crimes that Fall Under Statutory Rape
In Florida, statutory rape can be thought of as an umbrella term, which broadly encompasses many different illegal acts. In fact, unlawful sexual activity with minors can be prosecuted under several different sections of the Florida Statutes.
- Unlawful Sexual Activity with Certain Minors: Under Florida Statutes section 794.05, it is a second-degree felony for an adult who is 24 years of age or older to engage in sexual activity with a person that is 16 or 17 years of age. A second-degree felony is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
- Lewd or Lascivious Offenses Committed Upon or in the Presence of Certain Minors: Florida Statutes section 800.04 proscribes several lewd and lascivious offenses involving minors less than 16 years of age, including Lude and Lascivious Battery, Lude and Lascivious Molestation, Lude or Lascivious Conduct, and Lude or Lascivious Exhibition. These are all serious felony charges.
- Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor: Under Florida Statutes section 827.04, it is a third-degree felony (punishable by up to 5 years in prison) for an adult who is 21 years of age or older to impregnate a minor under the age of 16.
- Traveling to Meet a Minor: Under Florida Statutes section 847.0135, it is a second-degree felony offense for an adult to travel any distance to engage in unlawful sexual activity with a person believed to be a minor child, after using a computer online service, Internet service, local bulletin board service, or any other device capable of electronic data storage or transmission. This offense is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Sexual Offender Registration
Under Florida Statute 943.0435, individuals convicted of certain sex crimes are required to register as sex offenders for the remainder of their life, and regularly update their personal information. Therefore, in addition to the harsh penalties associated with statutory rape in Florida, a defendant convicted of one of these offenses is required to register as a sex offender.
Florida’s Romeo and Juliet Law
There is much confusion about the nature, purpose, and application of Florida’s Romeo and Juliet Law. Named after the two young lovers in William Shakespeare’s famous play, Florida’s Romeo and Juliet Law was passed in Florida’s 2007 State Legislative Session. The law is enumerated in Florida Statutes, section 943.04354.
Ostensibly, the law was passed in response to the growing recognition that age-of-consent and statutory rape laws weren’t always being enacted and enforced in a way that made sense—specifically with regard to similarly aged teens and young adults. However, Florida’s Romeo and Juliet Law is not a defense to criminal accusations. Nor is it something that exempts, confers immunity, or protects someone accused of such a crime.
Instead, the law was created to give young lovers already convicted of statutory rape offenses an option to avoid being registered sex offenders. That is, if certain criteria are met. The law is therefore not a defense to accusations of statutory rape, but instead a tool that allows convicted defendants to petition to be removed from the sex offender registry.
Florida’s Romeo and Juliet Law Qualifying Criteria
Under Florida’s Romeo and Juliet Law, a defendant may petition to be removed from the sex offender registry, if he or she can meet the enumerated criteria. Most notably:
- The defendant was convicted of a qualifying sexual related offense—regardless of whether adjudication of guilt was withheld.
- The defendant was not more than 4 years older than the victim of the offense.
- The victim was 13 years of age or older but younger than 18 years of age at the time the defendant committed the offense.
- The sexual conduct was consensual.
Contact a Florida Statutory Rape Attorney
The Law Office of William B. Wynne aggressively defends statutory rape charges involving minors below the age of consent in Florida, along with other sex crimes. We offer free consultations and payment plans to those who qualify. Contact Attorney William B. Wynne to schedule your free consultation.