Statutory Rape

Sex Crime Lawyer Counseling the Accused in Clearwater and St. Petersburg

The so-called “age of consent” in Florida is 18. Since people under this age are legally presumed to lack the ability to consent to sexual activity, people who engage in relations with someone who is 17 years old or younger run the risk of prosecution under Florida’s statutory rape laws. The penalties can be harsh and leave the offender with a lifelong criminal record and the many negative consequences of it. However, individual situations are often complicated, and it usually pays to have an experienced sex crime attorney in your corner if you are facing a statutory rape charge. St. Petersburg and Clearwater statutory rape defense lawyer Will Hanlon and the staff at Hanlon Law will be glad to discuss your case with you.

Understanding the Crime of Statutory Rape Under Florida Law

Florida Statutes § 794.05 defines the crime of unlawful sexual activity with a minor. Generally, consent is not a defense to a statutory rape charge brought under this section. However, if the minor in question was aged 16 or 17, there may be a defense if the offender was under 24 years old. For offenders aged 24 or older, consent is not a viable defense, nor is ignorance or a mistake regarding the victim’s age. This is true even if the victim lied about their age. The victim’s past sexual conduct is likewise irrelevant. In other words, a defendant can be prosecuted for statutory rape if the person with whom they engaged in sexual relations was promiscuous or even a prostitute. (In cases of prostitution, additional criminal charges may result, since that is a separate offense under Florida law.)

A person who engages in “sexual activity” (and that term is defined quite broadly, to include oral, anal, and vaginal penetration or union) with a person who lacks the legal capacity to give consent faces a felony charge. A statutory rape defense attorney in Clearwater or St. Petersburg should be consulted as soon as possible in these situations. Generally, statutory rape is a second-degree felony under Florida law, making it punishable by up to 15 years of imprisonment in the state penitentiary and a fine of up to $10,000. Depending on the circumstances and the defendant’s previous criminal record, there could be additional punishments under Florida’s felony offender sentencing laws. Registration on the sex offender registry is also a strong likelihood. There are a few limited exceptions to these laws under the “Romeo and Juliet” rule, but these cases are the exception rather than the rule.

A person accused of statutory rape should make sure to exercise their right to an attorney immediately once they have been arrested or charged, or even earlier if possible. Not every arrest ends in a conviction, and there may be a defense to the charges lodged against the offender. An attorney can help you explore possible defenses, including any potential violation of your constitutional rights by police.

Hire a Knowledgeable Statutory Rape Defense Lawyer in Clearwater or St. Petersburg

Fighting an accusation of criminal misconduct can be a daunting task, especially when the alleged wrong is a sex crime. The embarrassment associated with an arrest can be daunting, not to mention the long-reaching negative stigma attached to an actual conviction. While it may be tempting to take the quickest way out with a plea bargain arranged by a public defender, this can be a very bad decision in the long term. The wiser choice is to consult with a dedicated private attorney who has the time needed to investigate the details of your case and will do everything in their power to protect your reputation and secure your future. To speak to St. Petersburg and Clearwater statutory rape defense attorney Will Hanlon about your case, call us today at 727-897-5413 or contact us online. He also represents people who need a prostitution defense lawyer or assistance in fighting other charges related to sex crimes in Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Newport Richey, Dade City, and the surrounding areas.