Court Discusses Lesser Included Offenses in Sex Crime Cases in Florida

In many instances in which a defendant is charged with a sex crime, the court will instruct the jury not only as to the elements of the charged offense but also as to the elements of a lesser included offense. Thus, it is not uncommon for a jury to find that while the defendant is guilty, it is of a lesser charge rather than the offense the defendant is accused of committing. A criminal defendant does not have an automatic right to a jury instruction regarding a lesser included offense, however, as demonstrated in a recent Florida case in which the defendant was charged with multiple sex crimes. If you are accused of committing a sex crime in Tampa, it is prudent to speak to a knowledgeable Tampa sex crime defense attorney to assess your options for seeking a favorable outcome in consideration of the facts of your case.

Facts and History of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with lewd or lascivious exhibition, and three counts of sexual battery, two of which were allegedly committed against a victim that was less than twelve years old, which constituted capital battery. During the trial, the victim testified that the first incident of abuse occurred when she was nine years old, and the second act of abuse occurred when she was eleven. The defendant requested that the court instruct the jury that sexual battery was a lesser included offense of capital sexual battery. The court denied the request, stating that it was illogical based on the fact that it was undisputed that the victim was under twelve when the abuse occurred. The defendant was found guilty of all charges, after which he appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by not instructing the jury regarding a lesser included offense.

When Jury Instructions Regarding Lesser Included Offenses Are Appropriate

Under Florida law, a trial court is obligated to provide the jury with a requested instruction on a necessarily lesser included offense, but only if the judge determines that the offense is a necessarily lesser included offense. While sexual battery is included in the schedule of lesser included offenses, a court may nonetheless contest the legal correctness of instructing a jury on the elements of sexual battery.

In other words, the appellate court stated that the offense of sexual battery cannot be considered a necessarily lesser included offense of capital sexual battery, because necessarily lesser included offenses are those crimes in which the elements of the lesser offense are always included within the elements of the charged offense. The appellate court explained while sexual battery required a victim to be between twelve and eighteen years of age, capital sexual battery required the victim to be under the age of twelve. Thus, as sexual battery is not a necessarily lesser included offense of capital sexual battery, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Speak with a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney

If you live in Tampa and are charged with one or more sex crimes, it is in your best interest to speak with an attorney to assess your options. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a skilled Tampa sex crime defense attorney who can develop a strategy that will provide you with a strong chance of a successful legal result. Mr. Hanlon can be reached through the form online or at 813-228-7095 to schedule a meeting.

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