Florida Sexual Assault Lawyer
An alleged sexual assault in Florida is charged as a felony, with serious prison time possible on conviction. A life sentence, and even a death sentence, is possible depending on the circumstances. Having a Florida sexual assault lawyer who understands the elements of the charged offense, the potential penalties, and the ways in which such charges may be improperly brought, can be essential to providing an effective defense and avoiding serious, life-changing consequences. The Law Offices of Gilbert A. Schaffnit in Gainesville builds on over 40 years of legal experience to help people throughout the state of Florida who have been charged with sexual assault and other serious offenses.
Sexual Battery Definition and Penalties
You won’t find terms like rape, date rape or statutory rape used in Florida statutes that criminalize sexual assault. Rape and other types of sexual assault have all been combined in Florida law under the title of Sexual Battery, which can be found in Florida Statues section 794.011. Sexual battery is very explicitly defined as the penetration or union of one’s sexual organ with the mouth, vagina or anus of another, or the penetration with an object of another’s vagina or anus. If these acts cannot be proven, there is no crime of sexual battery. Also, the conduct must be proven to be nonconsensual whenever the alleged victim is over twelve years old.
If the accused is 18 or older and the alleged victim is under 12, sexual battery is a capital felony, meaning you could be given the death penalty if convicted. Where the accused is under 18 and the victim is younger than 12, the offense is a life felony, meaning a minor convicted of the offense could be sentenced to life in prison. Sexual battery is also a life felony if the perpetrator used or threatened the use of a deadly weapon, or used actual force likely to cause serious injury. Even if those circumstances do not exist, there a number of ways a sexual assault can be charged as a first degree felony, with up to 30 years in prison as a possible consequence. Otherwise, sexual battery is a second degree felony, carrying a penalty of up to 15 years in prison. Persons convicted of sexual battery are not eligible to have their sentences reduced through gain-time in prison (time off for good behavior).
Apart from the sexual battery law, Florida Statues section 794.05, Unlawful Sexual Activity with Certain Minors, makes it a crime for a person 24 years old or older to engage in sexual activity with a person who is 16 or 17 years old, even if the activity was consensual. “Sexual activity” is defined in the same way as a sexual battery in 794.011 described above. Statutory rape is a second degree felony and carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison. The statute also states explicitly that the prior sexual conduct of the victim is irrelevant to the prosecution and therefore cannot be used as part of a defense. Sex offenses involving minors are prosecuted zealously; make sure you obtain competent representation from a qualified and experienced Florida criminal defense attorney.
Defenses to Sexual Assault Charges
The issue of consent or lack of consent is frequently a disputed matter in sexual battery prosecutions. For instance, the encounter may be consensual, but a party later regrets the act for any number of reasons and feels compelled to claim there was no consent. In other cases, the identification of the perpetrator may be an important factor in the prosecution and defense. When sexual assaults do occur, they often occur at night or in dark, secluded areas with no witnesses around. Police may have only a general description of the attacker, and the individual they arrest may be a victim of circumstance, in the wrong place at the wrong time. Other common criminal defenses may apply as well, such as improper police procedure involved in a search or arrest, coerced confessions or incriminating statements that were obtained improperly and should be suppressed. At the Law Offices of Gilbert A. Schaffnit, we thoroughly investigate the facts surrounding the alleged incident and the arrest to build a strong case with all available defenses.
Contact an Experienced Florida Sexual Assault Lawyer
If you have been arrested and charged with sexual assault in Florida, call the Law Offices of Gilbert A. Schaffnit in Gainesville at 352-505-1799. A Florida sexual assault defense lawyer is available to answer your call at any time of the day or night and will advise you on your options and provide you with a strong defense and excellent representation that best meets your needs.