Can I Be Charged with Statutory Rape If I Was Unaware of My Partner’s Age?
In Florida, statutory rape is defined as unlawful sexual activity with a minor. Often, people are surprised when they are charged with statutory rape. When charged, defendants will usually claim they were unaware of their sexual partner’s age, or that their partner provided consent before any sexual contact occurred. However, Florida law clearly defines the restrictions surrounding sexual activity with minors, and the majority of the time, a “mistake-of-age defense” will not be a viable strategy in court.
If you have been charged with statutory rape and are trying to make sense of your situation, you should consult with a skilled criminal defense attorney. If accused of statutory rape, you may face second-degree felony charges, which could result in lifelong consequences. Outlined below is some important information to know about statutory rape charges in Florida.
The Age of Consent in Florida
The “age of consent” is the legally recognized age when an individual is considered capable of making decisions regarding their sexual activity. In Florida, the legal age of consent is 18. This means that if your partner gave consent but is under 18, you can still be charged with statutory rape. Since Florida defines individuals under 18 as unable to give consent, their stated consent in any sexual encounter is not legally valid.
In addition to defining an age of consent, Florida also identifies other situations and circumstances in which individuals are unable to consent. Under Florida law, individuals are considered unable to consent to sexual contact when they suffer from certain physical and mental disabilities. Additionally, Florida defines individuals who are mentally or physically incapacitated from alcohol or drug use as unable to consent.
How Florida Defines Statutory Rape
The state defines sexual activity as oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse or penetration. In short, statutory rape occurs when a sexual encounter occurs between an individual under the age of consent and an individual who is 24 or older. In addition, when a sexual encounter occurs between two minors and one is considered unable to consent due to a mental or physical disability, it is considered statutory rape.
Who Can Report Statutory Rape in Florida?
In Florida, there are three parties who can press statutory rape charges: the minor, their parents, and the State. The parents of a minor who has had a sexual experience that falls under the conditions of statutory rape can press charges. Parents do not need their child’s approval or cooperation to pursue legal action. Additionally, the State can pursue criminal charges without needing the cooperation of the minor involved. Lastly, after turning 18, a minor can pursue a civil suit against their accused partner.
Can I Still Be Charged If the Minor Lied About Their Age?
Even if a minor lies about their age, the older individual can still be charged with statutory rape. In Florida, this means you cannot use a “mistake-of-age defense” to legally justify your sexual encounter with a minor.
The only exemption Florida allows in statutory rape cases is outlined under its “Romeo and Juliet” law. Under this law, Florida provides an exemption to partners who are “close in age” to the minor they were involved with. For example, under this exemption, a 18- and 17-year-old could engage in sexual activity.
Consult With a Skilled Statutory Rape Lawyer in Central Florida
A statutory rape conviction can derail a person’s life. If you are facing a statutory rape charge, it is important to seek legal counsel from a skilled criminal defense lawyer. At the Umansky Law Firm, we believe everyone has the right to a strong defense. We work tirelessly to ensure our client’s side of the story is told to the court.
Our team has more than 100 years of combined experience in criminal law. We work closely with our clients and communicate with them through every stage of the legal process. To schedule a free consultation, call our office or complete an online contact form for a free consultation.