Can my teenager be deemed a Sex Offender?
Imagine that your high school senior son has a new girlfriend; she is a sophomore. Your son is 17 and the girl is 15. If they become intimate, the boy could be facing a serious felony charge in the State of Florida.
The age of consent in Florida is 18. Persons below the age of 18 cannot legally consent to having sex. However, there are some exceptions if the alleged victim is 16 years old or older, and the alleged perpetrator is under 24 years old. Additionally, in Florida, any activity deemed lewd, lascivious or sexual in nature, with a male or female who is under the age of 16, is a criminal offense.
WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY?
Florida Statute 800.04 governs what are deemed lewd or lascivious offenses. Sex acts, fondling, touching over clothing, showing body parts or anything a prosecutor considers “touching in a lewd or lascivious manner” may all be criminally chargeable activity if one of the participants is under 16. It is important to understand that:
An alleged victim’s consent or lack of chastity is NOT A DEFENSE.
Lack of knowledge of the alleged victim’s age is NOT A DEFENSE.
An alleged victim who lies about his/her age is NOT A DEFENSE.
WHAT CHARGES CAN AN UNWARY TEENAGER FACE?
Florida Statute 800.04 addresses offenses which are deemed Lewd or Lascivious behavior. Three separate crimes are identified in this statute:
LEWD OR LASCIVIOUS BATTERY
- A person commits Lewd or Lascivious Battery by:
- Engaging in sexual activity with a person 12 years of age or older but less than 16 years of age; or by 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.
- An offender who commits Lewd or Lascivious Battery commits a felony of the second degree.
LEWD OR LASCIVIOUS MOLESTATION
- A person who:
- Intentionally touches in a lewd or lascivious manner the breasts, genitals, genital area, or buttocks, or the clothing covering them, of a person less than 16 years of age, or forces or entices a person under 16 years of age to so touch the perpetrator, commits Lewd or Lascivious Molestation.
- An offender less than 18 years of age who commits Lewd or Lascivious Molestation against a victim 12 years of age or older, but less than 16 years of age commits a felony of the third degree.
LEWD OR LASCIVIOUS CONDUCT
- A person who:
- Intentionally touches a person under 16 years of age in a lewd or lascivious manner; or solicits a person under 16 years of age to commit a lewd or lascivious act commits Lewd or Lascivious Conduct.
- An offender less than 18 years of age who commits Lewd or Lascivious Conduct commits a felony of the third degree.
LEWD OR LASCIVIOUS EXHIBITION
- A person who:
- Intentionally masturbates; intentionally exposes the genitals in a lewd or lascivious manner; or intentionally commits any other sexual act that does not involve actual physical or sexual contact with the victim, including, but not limited to, sadomasochistic abuse, sexual bestiality, or the simulation of any act involving sexual activity in the presence of a victim who is less than 16 years of age, commitsLewd or Lascivious Exhibition.
- An offender less than 18 years of age who commits aLewd or Lascivious Exhibition commits a felony of the third degree.
Florida Statute 794.011 deals with Sexual Battery charges.
- Sexual Battery means oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by, or union with, the sexual organ of another or the anal or vaginal penetration of another by any other object.
- A person less than 18 years of age who commits Sexual Battery upon, or in an attempt to commit sexual battery injures the sexual organs of, a person less than 12 years of age commits a life felony.
- A person who commits Sexual Battery upon a person 12 years of age or older, without that person’s consent, and in the process thereof uses or threatens to use a deadly weapon or uses actual physical force likely to cause serious personal injury commits a life felony.
- A person younger than 18 years of age who commits Sexual Battery upon a person 12 years of age or older without that person’s consent, if the victim is physically helpless, commits a felony of the first degree.
- A person younger than 18 years of age who commits Sexual Battery upon a person 12 years of age or older, without that person’s consent, and in the process does not use physical force and violence likely to cause serious personal injury commits a felony of the second degree.
ARE JUVENILES REQUIRED TO REGISTER AS SEX OFFENDERS?
A juvenile convicted of a sex offense may be deemed a sex offender and be placed on the sex offender registry in Florida. He/she may have to register as a sex offender for a minimum of 25 years. Registration involves publicly publishing the child’s picture and address and updated information with the local sheriff’s office.
WHAT ABOUT THE ROMEO AND JULIET LAWS?
The Romeo and Juliet Law only deals with sex offender registration. It is not a shield against criminal prosecution. Under Florida Statute 943.04354, in order to qualify for an exemption from Sex Offender Registration, the following requirements must be met:
- The conviction is for: Sexual Battery (F.S. 794.011), or aLewd or Lascivious Offense (F.S. 800.04);
- The crime involved a consensual sexual encounter with a 14, 15, 16, or 17-year-old minor;
- The minor was no more than 4 years younger than the defendant at the time of the sexual encounter;
- Registration as a sexual offender (or predator) is solely because of the conviction in question;
- No other convictions for aLewd or Lascivious Offense, Sexual Battery, or Lewd or Lascivious Exhibition using a Computer exist.
No matter what your opinion is regarding sexual relationships between teenagers, it is important for parents and teenagers to be aware of the laws in Florida. An unknowing, unwary teenager will face the same conviction and penalties as someone with full knowledge of the law.
WHAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE?
SEX OFFENSE CHARGES ARE SERIOUS BUSINESS! TALK TO YOUR TEENAGER AND EDUCATE THEM ABOUT THESE LAWS. Although it may not be a desirable conversation, it is much better than a teenage relationship that goes awry and ends with a child deemed a convicted felon and sex offender.
- Under 16 equals criminal conduct no matter what.
- 16 & 17 equals criminal conduct if the alleged perpetrator is over 24; however, a consent exception exists if one person is 16 or 17 and the other is under 24.
- The Romeo and Juliet Law may save a teen from the Sex Offender Registry, but it does not avoid a criminal conviction.
If your teenager is under investigation or has been charged with a crime, don't hesitate to protect their rights! Reach out to Bogle Law now for a consultation.