Ignorance or belief as to victim's age no defense F.S. 794.021
Florida penalizes various sex crimes. Those involving minors are punished especially harshly. You may assume that not knowing the age of a person with whom you have sex is a defense. You may also assume that if it was consensual, you cannot be charged. However, this is not true. You can be charged with unlawful sexual activity with someone underage if you are 24 or older and have consensual sex with someone who is 16 or 17 years old. You can be charged with other crimes if you have sex, consensual or otherwise, with someone under age 16. At Hanlon Law, Tampa statutory rape lawyer Will Hanlon believes in the rights of the accused. Ignorance or belief as to a victim's age is not a defense, but we do have experience providing other strong defenses.Ignorance or Belief as to Victim's Age No Defense
It is legal in some situations for an adult in Florida who is between the ages of 18 and 23 to have sex with a minor who is 16-17, as long as the minor consents. However, you can be charged with sexual battery, also known as rape, if the sex is nonconsensual or forcible. Someone who is 15 or younger is not capable of lawfully consenting to sex, and if you had sex with someone who was 15 or younger, you can be charged with lewd and lascivious battery.
Unlawful sexual activity with minors is a second-degree felony that can result in a sentence of up to 15 years’ imprisonment, 15 years’ sex offender probation, and a maximum of $10,000 in fines. You will also be required to comply with sex offender registration laws in Florida and elsewhere for the rest of your life.
Ignorance of a victim's age is not a defense to the charge of unlawful sexual activity with a minor. Under Florida Statute section 794.021, whenever actions are a crime based on the victim being below a certain age, not knowing the victim's age or believing that the victim was older is not a defense. You cannot even raise this defense when the victim misrepresented their age or when you had a bona fide belief that the person was over a specific age.
However, there are various other defense strategies that may be useful. These include constitutional violations, insufficient evidence, false allegations, and the young adult exception. For example, if evidence of sexual activity was obtained illegally in contravention of the Fourth or Fifth Amendments, it may be possible to get it suppressed. All of the elements of sex crime charges need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a very high standard. If there is not enough evidence, it may be possible to persuade the prosecution to charge a lesser offense or drop the charges, or persuade the jury to acquit you.
False allegations occur for a variety of reasons. Sometimes a parent manipulates a child, or a child is mentally ill. Sometimes there is some family law advantage to be had. Sometimes a child or a parent is jealous or troubled. We can investigate the person who made the accusation or who filed the complaint to figure out whether there are any possible wrongful motives at work related to sexual battery charges involving someone who is underage.
In general, a defendant cannot argue that the alleged victim had prior sexual relationships as a defense to the crime of illegal sexual activity with a person who is 16-17. The victim's prior sexual behavior is considered irrelevant. However, in some cases, evidence about prior acts can go toward a defense involving bias or a false allegation.Seek Guidance from a Skillful Tampa Attorney When Facing a Sex Crime Charge
If you are accused of a sex crime involving a minor, your ignorance or belief as to the victim's age is not a defense. However, an experienced sex crime attorney can investigate to see whether there are strong defenses available or another strategy that could lead to a favorable or less harsh outcome. Our founder, Tampa lawyer Will Hanlon, has provided a strong, aggressive defense to people accused of sex crimes. He strives to provide personalized representation. Call Hanlon Law at 813-228-7095 or use our online form to set up an appointment.