Sexual harassment. Sexual assault. Sexual battery. Rape.
These days, it seems like stories about high-profile sex crime allegations are everywhere. Accusations of these types of crimes have led to the downfall of celebrities like Bill Cosby, caused many prominent Republicans to withdraw their endorsements from Donald Trump, and hurt his overall chances of getting elected.
But though the media often uses many of these terms interchangeably, they mean very different things. Not only that, but the legal definition can change depending on how the laws are written from state-to-state.
This is particularly important to note if you or someone you love has been charged with sexual battery in Florida, because the crime – and the associated penalties – are far more serious than the name implies.
What Is Sexual Battery under Florida Law?
When we hear about sexual assault, sexual battery, or rape on the news, the context or actions being described might be confusing or even conflicting. In Florida, rape – or the act of engaging in sexual intercourse against a person’s will or consent – is legally called “sexual battery.”
In our state, sexual battery occurs both when a victim refuses to consent to the act as well as in situations where he or she cannot give consent due to a mental illness or their level of consciousness. For example, someone cannot give consent if they are in a coma or unconscious from consuming drugs or alcohol.
What are You Up against If You are Charged with Sexual Battery?
When someone is charged with sexual battery, the age of the victim and other aggravating factors determine the possible penalties that they will face. In many cases, sexual battery is a felony in the second degree. Offenders may be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison, and may face fines of up to $10,000.
Aggravating factors can bump the charges up to a felony in the first degree. These factors include:
- The victim was physically helpless
- The victim was mentally incapacitated
- The offender used or threatened force or violence
- The offender used controlled substances to incapacitate a victim (i.e. date-rape drugs)
Penalties for first degree felonies in Florida include up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000. Quite a jump up in jail time from a second degree felony.
Additionally, the above circumstances apply when the offender is an adult and the child is over the age of 12. If the offender is an adult and the victim is under the age of 12, the charge is a capital felony. A conviction for this type of offense has penalties that are even more severe – $15,000 in fines, and prison sentences that start at 25 years, but can go up to life.
If a minor is charged with sexual battery against someone under the age of 12, they also face a life felony. This means they may be sentenced to life in prison and face fines of up to $15,000. In some cases, the minor will be charged as an adult, and will have to face adult consequences (including having to register on the Florida sex offender registry for life).
Being on the Florida Sex Offender Registry
The Florida sex offender registry is a database that gives law enforcement, as well as the public, information on individuals who have been convicted of sex crimes. Each profile includes the offender’s name, date of birth, address, and any identifying features (hair and eye color, height and weight, and so on). The profile also includes the offender’s criminal record, court case numbers, and status (whether or not they are under supervision or have been released).
Everyone who is on the sex offender registry has requirements that need to be met regularly in order to stay out of jail and avoid further criminal charges. Offenders must register two or four times a year, depending on circumstances, and also must reregister and change their driver’s license number every time they move. Even if you are transient, you have to register as transient.
Worse, there are restrictions placed on sex offenders that designate where they can and cannot live, something that tends to limit options and make it difficult to find housing. These restrictions differ depending on the jurisdiction or county where the sex offender intends to live.
The list goes on – if you plan on traveling outside the state of Florida or the country, you have to alert the local sheriff. And additional information, including your destination, flight numbers, and the address of your intended residence may also be required to travel outside of the state.
Fail to register and there are even more charges and penalties. In Florida, these charges are classified as felonies, and a conviction may send a sex offender back to jail.
You shouldn’t let this long like scare you into inaction, though. The important thing to remember if you or someone you love has been accused or charged with sexual battery is that these charges can be fought and can be beaten. For the best chance at getting a positive outcome in your case, reach out to a knowledgeable Florida sex crimes attorney today to get started on your defense strategy.
About the Author:
Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he’s done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.