Florida Statutes criminalize sexual activity with minors aged 12 to 15 — even if the act is consensual. The state labels this offense as “lewd and lascivious battery,” commonly referred to as statutory rape. Having any intimate relations with someone who is underage can lead to felony charges. The law does not care whether the underage party consented, whether it was a long-term relationship, or whether the older party was privy to the younger party’s age.
If you or your child has recently been accused of statutory rape, the lewd and lascivious battery lawyers in Pinellas County at Goldman Wetzel can help. We may be able to sway the state to forgo filing formal charges, drop the case, or at least reduce the penalties. Call us today at 727-828-3900 to discuss your defense options with a sex crimes lawyer.
How Does Florida Define Lewd and Lascivious Battery?
Florida Statute § 800.04(4) defines lewd and lascivious battery as “engaging in sexual activity with a person 12 years of age or older but less than 16 years of age; or encouraging, forcing, or enticing any person less than 16 years of age to engage in sadomasochistic abuse, sexual bestiality, prostitution, or any other act involving sexual activity.”
In many cases, lewd and lascivious battery charges arise when a young adult is in a relationship and someone (often the minor’s parents) brings the relationship to the attention of law enforcement.
What Penalties Might I Face After a Conviction for Lewd and Lascivious Battery?
Lewd and lascivious battery can be a first-, second-, or third-degree felony, depending on the age of the victim. It is punishable by:
- Up to life in prison;
- Up to 15 years of probation; and
- Up to $15,000 in fines; and
- Designation as a sexual offender and lifetime inclusion on the sex offender registry.
If the defendant has any prior convictions for sexual battery offenses involving minors, the state will elevate the charge.
Also, per Florida Statute § 944.275, defendants convicted of lewd and lascivious battery will not be eligible for “gain-time,” or reductions in prison sentences for good behavior, contributions, and good deeds. In other words, if convicted, the defendant must serve the entirety of the prison sentence.
Does Goldman Wetzel Accept Lewd and Lascivious Battery Cases?
Yes. Attorneys Summer Goldman and Maribeth Wetzel have over three decades of combined experience handling a wide variety of cases on both sides of the aisle.
We have a passion for helping people in Pinellas County and the surrounding areas when they are facing serious criminal charges such as lewd and lascivious battery. Our firm has the qualifications and means to represent defendants charged with all types of sex crimes in state and federal court.
Some of the related types of cases we can facilitate include those involving:
- Lewd and lascivious molestation
- Sexual battery
- Unlawful sexual activity with a minor
- Internet crimes
I Did Not Know She Was Underage. Can I Still Be Convicted of Statutory Rape?
Yes. Defendants cannot use ignorance as a defense to lewd and lascivious battery in Florida. This is because the State considers this offense a strict liability crime, i.e., it holds offenders strictly liable, irrespective of the offenders’ ignorance of the alleged victims’ age.
It does not matter if you intended to commit a crime, nor if the younger party initiated the act. Florida still considers it statutory rape and reserves the right to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.
If you are in this type of situation, our defense lawyers can work on your behalf, try to negotiate with the prosecutor, or present this fact to the court so the judge can consider it during sentencing. Contact us at 727-828-3900.
What Are the Available Defenses to Lewd and Lascivious Battery?
While ignorance may not qualify as a valid defense to lewd and lascivious battery charges, there are several other defense strategies that do. Speak to one of our attorneys today about your case. When you work with Goldman Wetzel, our defense lawyers will investigate the facts of your case, consider appropriate defenses, and develop a strong case to advocate for your best interests.
We will explore defenses that best suit your situation. Perhaps the allegations are false. Maybe the alleged victim or her parents were vindictive or mentally unstable and falsely accused you. Perhaps a third party called the authorities and made the allegations without knowing the facts. We can collect evidence to support your case and present them to the prosecutor or court.
If the case proceeds to trial, we may be able to prove certain mitigating circumstances existed that can influence sentencing. Judges have the right to deviate from the minimum prison sentence (called a downward departure sentence) if we can show, for example, that the alleged victim was the initiator or aggressor, or that the defendant is under 21 or has a mental disorder.
Similarly, if your case meets certain strict stipulations, we can petition the court to forgo the sex offender registry requirement.
Whatever the case, our team will devise a plan of action to bring about the best possible outcome. We will explain your legal options, protect your rights during the criminal process, and share your side of the story in a positive light to the court.
How Can Goldman Wetzel Help Me Fight Statutory Rape Charges?
From our years of service, we know just how impersonal and complex the criminal justice system seems and how invaluable having a legal advocate can be when your freedom, future, and reputation are on the line. Summer and Maribeth will work together on your case as a team to provide you with a powerful, efficient defense.
Rest assured, we will fight for the best resolution possible and explain what to expect during each phase of the process, so you are never in the dark. When you are facing serious charges like lewd and lascivious battery, you want a lawyer you trust. Call our office at 727-828-3900 and speak to one of our defense lawyers about your case today.