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Boca Raton Sex Crimes Lawyer

Experienced criminal attorneys defending Palm Beach County

Being accused of a sex crime can affect every area of your life. The people around you may question your character. Your professional reputation may be negatively impacted. There is also a very real possibility that you may be convicted of a crime and lose your freedom. Sex offenses are serious crimes that affect the victim and the surrounding community. People generally feel unsafe when they question whether a sex predator may be in their midst. Your neighbors may begin to behave differently toward you. If you have been wrongfully accused of a sex crime, hire a Boca Raton sex crimes defense lawyer right away. Retaining counsel very early on can help you preserve your reputation and protect your freedom. Joffe Law represents people who are accused of a sex offense in Boca Raton and surrounding areas.

How wrongful sex crime accusations arise

It’s easy to assume that if someone is accused of a sex crime, he or she must have done something wrong. However, there are cases in which people find themselves accused of a sex offense they didn’t commit. Some common reasons for false sex crimes accusations include:

  • the accused is involved in a contentious divorce
  • the accuser made up the accusation to damage the accused party’s reputation
  • the accused has been wrongfully accused due to mistaken identity
  • the accused has been wrongfully identified by someone who has a mental illness

If you believe you have been wrongfully accused of a sex crime, a Boca Raton defense attorney will examine the facts of your case and construct the strongest arguments for your defense. Your attorney may interview witnesses who can prove you were nowhere near the scene of the crime or call expert witnesses who can disprove the accusation based on crime scene evidence. There are several ways defense attorneys may challenge a case against a defendant who is wrongfully accused.

Boca Raton sexual assault cases

The legal definition of sexual assault varies from state to state. Sexual assault is generally defined as any type of unwanted sexual contact made by one person against someone else. Sexual contact made with someone who is unable to consent is also sexual assault. Florida law addresses sexual assault in several statutes that use other terms to describe illegal sexual contact. Currently, there is no section in Florida’s statutes that separately defines the term “rape.” Rape cases in Florida are prosecuted under the state’s sexual battery statute.

Sexual battery under Florida law

Florida law recognizes several different types of sexual battery. State law generally defines the term as non consensual  oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by or union with the sex organ of someone else. The definition also includes anal or vaginal penetration by an object. The statute further clarifies that consent must be knowing, intelligent, and voluntary and that submission under duress or coercion does not constitute consent.

The penalties for sexual battery depend on several factors. A sexual battery charge in Boca Raton may be a misdemeanor or a serious felony that is eligible for a life sentence, depending on:

  • the victim’s age
  • the use of force or violence
  • the perpetrator’s relationship to the victim

Misdemeanor offenses tend to be cases that do not involve a victim who is under 18, physical force, or other aggravating factors. Although a misdemeanor may seem to be a light offense for sexual battery, a convicted defendant may be sentenced to up to one year in jail for a single count. Florida’s sexual battery laws allow judges to enhance sentencing if certain aggravating factors are present in a case. Some examples of aggravating factors are:

  • use of a weapon
  • serious bodily harm
  • a victim who has a mental illness or other disability
  • previous sex crimes convictions

It is also important to note that there are certain mitigating factors that may lead the court to reduce the defendant’s sentence. For example, evidence that proves the defendant had a mental illness at the time of the offense may lead a court to reduce sentencing to make the penalty proportionate with the details of the offense.

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Child molestation cases in Boca Raton

The state prosecutes child molestation cases under Florida’s Lewdness and Indecent Exposure statute. Florida law refers to child molestation as:

  • lewd or lascivious battery
  • lewd or lascivious molestation
  • lewd or lascivious conduct
  • lewd or lascivious exhibition

Florida’s child molestation laws refer to victims who are under the age of 16. If accused of child molestation in Boca Raton, defendants are not permitted to argue the child’s lack of chastity, victim’s consent, nor lack of knowledge of the victim’s age as a valid legal defense.

Lewd or Lascivious battery charges

Lewd or lascivious battery refers to the act of engaging in sexual activity with a victim who is at least 12 years of age and under age 16. Anyone who encourages, forces, or entices anyone who is under 16 years of age to engage in any sexual act may also be charged with lewd or lascivious battery.

In cases that involve first-time offenders, lewd or lascivious battery is a second degree felony with a maximum sentence of 15 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. If the defendant has one or more prior convictions for a similar offense, lewd and lascivious battery is a first degree felony. If convicted, the defendant may be sentenced to a maximum of 30 years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of up to $10,000.

Lewd or lascivious molestation cases

State law defines lewd or lascivious molestation as the act of intentionally touching a person who is under 16 years of age on the breasts, genitals, genital area, or buttocks whether the contact occurs above or below the victim’s clothing. A perpetrator who forces or entices an individual who is under the age of 16 to touch the perpetrator’s body may also be convicted for lewd or lascivious molestation. If the defendant is 18 or older and the victim is under age 12, the offense is a first degree felony with eligibility for a life sentence. The offense is a second degree felony if the defendant is under 18 and commits lewd and lascivious molestation against a victim who is under 12 or if the defendant is 18 or older and the victim is 12 or older but under the age of 16. Defendants who have one or more prior convictions for a lewd and lascivious offense or an act of sexual battery against a minor may be charged with a first degree felony if accused of lewd and lascivious molestation against a minor between the ages of 12 and 16.

Lewd and lascivious conduct charge

An individual may be charged with lewd and lascivious conduct if he or she touches a person who is under the age of 16 in a lewd or lascivious manner. Soliciting a person who is under age 16 to commit a lewd or lascivious act is also covered by the lewd and lascivious conduct statute. Lewd and lascivious conduct is a second degree felony if the offender is 18 whereas the offense is a third degree felony if the defendant is a minor.

Lewd or lascivious exhibition

Lewd or lascivious exhibition occurs when a person intentionally masturbates, exposes the genitals in a lewd or lascivious manner, or intentionally commits a sexual act that does not involve touching the victim in the presence of a victim who is under 16 years of age. If the defendant is 18 or older, the offense is a second degree felony. If the offender is under 18 years old, the offense is a third degree felony. Florida law carves out an exception to the law against lewd or lascivious exhibition for women who are breastfeeding their child.

The complex nature of Florida’s lewd and lascivious laws calls for the expertise of a seasoned Boca Raton sex crimes lawyer. Joffe Law is qualified to represent minor and adult defendants who are accused of a lewd and lascivious offense.

Federal child molestation statute

Federal law prohibits crossing state lines to engage in sexual conduct with a minor who is under the age of 16. The federal law carves out an exception for cases in which the defendant is less than four years older than the minor and the minor is at least 12 years old. Defendants who have previous convictions for one or more similar federal offenses or the state law equivalent may be sentenced to a maximum term of life in prison. Federal law also has a special provision that prohibits sexual activity with children who are in the federal government’s custody.

Child pornography charges

Child pornography cases are often investigated by state and federal law enforcement agencies. The nature of the internet makes it easy for child pornography cases to fall within the federal government’s jurisdiction. Illegal images of children are often shared among groups of individuals who secretly share a common interest and live in multiple jurisdictions. Therefore, people who engage in child pornography-related offenses in Florida may face two sets of charges–one at the state level and another set of charges under federal law–and be sentenced in two separate court systems if convicted. Similar to the manner in which Florida addresses other sex crimes, there are multiple laws under which state prosecutors may charge child pornography offenses, making it critical for those accused of such charges in Boca Raton to retain an experienced child pornography defense attorney immediately.

Possession of child pornography in South Florida

Possession is a foundational element in many child pornography-related offenses, and it can also be a standalone charge. An individual may be charged if he or she has active or constructive possession of visual depictions of a minor engaged in sexual activity. Active possession refers to the individual having the illegal images on his or her person, inside a pocket, bag, or other accessory worn on the individual’s body, or within the individual’s reach. Constructive possession refers to the defendant having the item in another area that is within the individual’s control. Some examples of constructive possession include:

  • storing illegal photos in a personal locker at work
  • the defendant keeping a laptop that contains pornographic images stored in his or her locked closet at home
  • having an external storage device that contains illegal digital files inside of a private assigned storage unit

Prosecutors charge each pornographic image or photo of a minor as a separate count. Therefore, if a defendant has 1,000 illegal images of children on a storage drive, the defendant may be charged with 1,000 counts of possession of child pornography. If convicted, the defendant may be sentenced to up to five years in prison, five years on probation, and a fine of up to $5,000 multiplied by the number of counts.

Federal Child Pornography Possession Law

The federal law against possessing child pornography identifies aggravating factors that allow the court to enhance sentencing. Aggravating factors under the federal law include:

  • the age of the child depicted
  • whether the depiction includes sadistic, masochistic, or violent acts
  • the number of images the defendant possessed
  • whether the defendant used a computer in the commission of the crime
  • whether the defendant distributed child pornography
  • whether the defendant has engaged in a previous pattern of activity involving the sexual abuse or exploitation of a minor

As a federal offense, possession of child pornography is a Class D felony if the victim is a minor who is age 12 or older. If convicted, the defendant may be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in federal prison, lifetime supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000. If the victim is under 12, which is also referred to in the federal law as a prepubescent minor, the maximum sentence increases to 20 years in federal prison, lifetime supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentencing guidelines for first time offenders who are convicted for possessing pornography that depicts a prepubescent minor specify 33 to 41 months of imprisonment before the court may consider mitigating or aggravating circumstances. If the victim depicted in the pornographic materials is 12 or over, the sentencing guidelines specify 27 to 33 months of imprisonment before the court may consider mitigating or aggravating circumstances.

Distribution, transmission, and promotion of child pornography

In Florida, distribution and transmission of child pornography are second degree felonies which carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Under state law, an individual may be charged with distribution if he or she sends or transmits a sexual image of a minor.

Under state law, promotion of child pornography in is a first degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Florida prosecutors may charge a defendant for promoting child pornography if he or she possesses three or more copies of a sexual image of a minor or if the individual:

  • manufactures a sexual image or video of a minor
  • sells a sexual image or video of a minor
  • otherwise transfers a sexual image or video of a minor

There are several provisions in the federal law that address various forms of selling, transmitting and promoting child pornography. Title 18 of the U.S. legal code describes criminal offenses that relate to the exploitation of minors. Listed below are a few of the federal laws that prohibit the distribution and transmission of child pornography:

  • Section 2252(a)(1) of Title 18 prohibits anyone from knowingly transporting or shipping in interstate or foreign commerce any visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexual conduct
  • Section 2252 (a)(2) of Title 18 prohibits the receipt, distribution, and production of any child pornography that has been mailed or moved in interstate or foreign commerce.
  • Section 2252 (a)(3) of Title 18 prohibits the sale and the possession with the intent to sell child pornography that was made or shipped in interstate or foreign commerce.

The provisions in subsections 1-3 of Section 2252 carry a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison with a maximum sentence of up to 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000.  If a defendant has one or more prior convictions for certain related offenses, the maximum federal prison sentence increases to 40 years. A prior conviction for conspiring to commit an offense contained in subsections 1-3 also qualifies the defendant’s case for the enhanced maximum sentence.

Sexting and Florida’s child pornography laws

The invention of smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers with built-in cameras have prompted Florida’s legislature to expand the state’s child pornography laws. As more minors gain access to devices that allow them to digitally create and exchange photos of themselves and others, Florida courts have seen an increase in sexting cases that involve minors. Sexting is the act of exchanging sexually-themed text messages. Between two overtly consenting adults, sexting is legal. If sexting involves a minor, the act is a criminal offense with serious consequences.

Sexting between minors

Sexting cases in which the parties involved are both minors are most often adjudicated in the state’s juvenile court system. Generally, defendants in Florida sexting cases who are under 18 years of age are treated with more leniency than adult offenders. On a minor defendant’s first offense, the court may require the defendant to pay up to $60 in fines, do eight hours of community service, and complete a course on the dangers of sexting. The defendant must complete the requirements or contest the citation in court within 30 days. Failure to do so may result in the state suspending the defendant’s driver’s license.

Second-time minor offenders may be convicted of a first degree misdemeanor offense and sentenced to up to one year in jail and fined up to $1,000. Third and subsequent offenses may be charged as a third degree felony, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. If a minor offender violates the sexting law in a manner the court deems to be very serious, the minor may be charged as an adult.

Sexting between adult and minor

When sexting occurs between a minor and an adult, the consequences are much more severe for the adult. Defendants who are 18 or older and are accused of sexting a minor may be charged under Florida’s general child pornography laws. If the adult is in possession of a sexual image or video of the minor may be charged with possession of child pornography. If the adult shared the photo with someone, he or she may be charged with distributing child pornography and promoting a sexual performance by a child. Depending on the details of the conversation, a state prosecutor may also charge the defendant under Florida’s other child exploitation statutes. For example, if the adult and the minor communicated about arranging to meet the minor, the adult may be charged for traveling to meet a minor for a sexual purpose or solicitation of a minor. If the adult sent sexual photos to the minor, they may be charged for transmitting harmful material to a minor and lewd and lascivious exhibition.

Chat room stings

People who are looking for child pornography are often in chat rooms and on message boards, and classified websites that are well-known among people who have an interest in sexual images of minors. Law enforcement agencies investigate child pornography-related activity by conducting sting operations. During a sting operation, undercover police officers pose as people who are interested in conducting transactions for child pornography. Police officers also pretend to be minors who may be lured into sexually exploitative situations. Law enforcement agencies use sting operations to meet people who are involved in the child pornography trade and to investigate criminal organizations that exploit children. Upon discovering illegal activity, the police will conduct a raid and make arrests.

Contacting a Boca Raton sex crimes attorney

Any accusation of a sex crime should always be taken seriously. David Joffe has more than 35 years of experience representing defendants in major Florida sex crimes cases. To learn more about our legal defense services, call Joffe Law, P.A. 24/7.

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