Sadly, crimes involving lewd and lascivious molestation of minors are not uncommon in the state of Florida. While these criminal acts are severely punishable under the law, there can be instances where individuals are falsely or overly accused of such crimes.
If you are currently facing charges, you can read this article to learn about the possible penalties and defenses against lewd and lascivious molestation charges.
Legal Definition of Lewd and Lascivious Molestation in Florida
Lewd and lascivious are synonymous words that refer to an offensive sexual desire. The former means sexually unchaste, obscene, or lustful, while the latter denotes prurient, vulgar, and sexually arousing.
Relatively, Florida Statute 800.04(5) states that the criminal commitment of lewd and lascivious molestation happens when a person intentionally yet lewdly and lasciviously touches the breasts, buttocks, genitals, or the clothing of a child who is 16 years old or younger. It also occurs when someone encourages, forces, or entices a child who is 16 years old or younger to lewdly and lasciviously touch the perpetrator.
Penalties and Punishments for Lewd and Lascivious Molestation
The courts will look at the age of the offender and the victim when determining penalties and charges for lewd and lascivious molestation crimes. The penalties and punishments are as follows:
By an Adult on a 12-Year Old Child or Under
As per Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code, any person, who is 18 years or older and commits a lewd and lascivious molestation crime on a child under 12 years old, falls under the Level 9 offense severity ranking. This is a life felony punishable by a $10,000 fine, a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison, and lifetime sex offender probation.
By an Adult on a Child Under 16 But Over 12
Lewd or lascivious molestation by a person 18 years or older on a child between the ages of 12-16 falls under the Level 7 offense severity ranking. The court classifies this case as a second-degree felony punishable by a $10,000 fine, 51 months to 15 years of imprisonment, and two to 15 years of sex offender probation.
Nonetheless, this penalty is applicable if the perpetrator has no prior criminal history or justification for a downward departure from the sentence.
By a Minor on a 12-Year Old Child or Under
Similarly, persons under 18 who commit lewd and lascivious molestation on a child younger than 12 years old are at a Level 7 offense severity ranking. They will get convicted of a second-degree felony punishable by a $10,000 fine, 51 months to 15 years of imprisonment, and two to 15 years of sex offender probation.
Furthermore, this sentencing will also become applicable if they have no grounds for a downward departure sentence or prior criminal history.
By a Minor on a Child Under 16 But Over 12
Lastly, a crime of lewd and lascivious molestation committed by a person younger than 18 on a child under 16 but over 12 years old falls under a Level 6 offense severity ranking. Since it is a third-degree felony, the judge must convict the perpetrator with a $5,000 fine, 36 months to five years in prison, and two to five years of sex offender probation.
Note that this sentence is applicable unless there is a prior criminal history or justification for a downward departure of the penalty.
The Romeo and Juliet Law
Since there can be sexual contact between persons of which both or one is below 18 years old, the Florida State Law considers any person who commits the act guilty of statutory rape. That is because individuals under the said age cannot have the judgment to provide informed consent.
With that said, the Romeo and Juliet Law aims to thwart teenage romantic couples from getting charged with statutory rape and becoming forced to register as sex offenders. However, they must meet these requirements before they can apply this law:
- The victim’s age is between 14 and 17 years old;
- The offender is older than the victim by not more than four years;
- The victim must be willing to participate in the sexual activity; and
- The offender has no prior criminal history of sex crimes.
Remember that any accused person under this crime may still become fined or imprisoned because statutory rape remains illegal.
Defenses Against Lewd and Lascivious Molestation Charges
If you are accused of a lewd and lascivious molestation crime, there are certain defenses that you can use to reduce or dismiss your case. These include:
Some people can falsely charge you with a lewd and lascivious molestation crime to ruin your reputation. The most common reasons for doing so include manipulating children by an angry or mentally ill parent, jealousy, or an accuser’s mental illness. In this case, you can ask a criminal defense attorney to obtain evidence to prove you did not get involved in such criminal acts.
Lack of Lewd Intent
The Florida law only considers an act a lewd and lascivious molestation crime if the lewd and lascivious intent is evident. So, if you can justify that you did not intend the engagement in physical contact to be sexually offensive, you can use this as a defense to reduce your charge or dismiss the entire case.
Prohibited Defenses Against Lewd and Lascivious Molestation Charges
On the other hand, here are the defenses you can never use in any Florida court.
The Florida law statutorily forbids any convicted person to use the child’s consent to the purported sexual act in any trial. That is because the state emphasizes that any child under 18 years old has no judgment to give such informed consent.
Ignorance of the Child’s Age
You cannot argue in court that your lewd and lascivious molestation crime will get justified because the victim lied about their age or you have a sound belief that they were old enough to consent to such sexual touching.
Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney Today
When it comes to lewd and lascivious molestation crimes, the penalties can vary depending on the ages of both the offender and victim. However, there are a number of possible defenses that can be argued in court.
If your innocence is being questioned in a court of law and you don’t know how to defend yourself, contact our legal team at Hanlon Law Tampa. We can help you gather evidence and craft strong arguments in your favor.
Call us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your rights.
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Tampa, FL 33602