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Coral Gables Sex Crime Defense Lawyer

Expert criminal defense attorney for state and federal sex offenses

A sex crime accusation can have lingering negative consequences people who are accused of most other crimes do not experience. Your family members may question whether they can trust you. Neighbors may feel unsafe. If you own a business, you may lose customers. Employers may place you on suspension pending the outcome of your case. Even if the accusations are proven false, people may still question whether you had involvement with the crime. The good news is you don’t have to face potentially damaging sex crimes allegations alone. Working with a Coral Gables sex crimes attorney from the beginning of your case can help you protect your reputation and clear your name sooner. David Joffe represents people who have been accused of a sex crime in Coral Gables. Joffe Law is dedicated to protecting the rights of the accused party in South Florida sex crimes cases.

Coral Gables lawyer for federal and state sex crimes

Most sex crimes and other offenses are prosecuted in state court. However, there are certain circumstances under which a sex crimes case may be a federal court matter.  A defendant may face federal sex crimes charges if:

  • the criminal activity occurred in two or more states
  • the criminal activity crossed an international border
  • the criminal activity took place on government property or in a U.S. territory
  • the criminal activity involved a federal agency
  • the criminal activity involved a federal government official

Although the penalties for state sex offenses are serious enough, federal sex crimes carry even more severe sentencing guidelines. Moreover, federal cases are prosecuted by some of the nation’s top prosecutors. Our Coral Gables sex crimes attorney is qualified to defend you against federal and state charges.

Federal and state rape laws

When federal government has jurisdiction over a rape or sexual assault case, federal prosecutors typically charge the defendant under Chapter 10 Section 920 of the United States Code. Federal law defines rape as a sexual act committed against someone with the use of any of the following:

  • unlawful force
  • force causing or likely to cause grievous bodily harm to anyone
  • threatening or placing the victim in fear that any person will be subjected to death, grievous bodily harm, or kidnapping
  • first rendering the victim unconscious
  • administering to the victim, by force or the threat of force or by without the knowledge or consent of the victim, a drug, intoxicant, or similar substance and impairing the victim’s ability to appraise or control conduct

Grievous bodily harm means serious bodily injury, which may include broken or dislocated bones, deep cuts, torn members of the body, serious damage to the internal organs, or other severe bodily injuries. Within the context of the federal statute, the term “force” may include the use of a weapon or the use of physical strength or violence as is sufficient to restrain, overcome, or injure a person. A threat may also involve inflicting physical harm to coerce or compel the victim to comply.

It is also important to note that federal law uses the terms “sexual act” and “sexual contact” very differently. A sexual act involves any degree of penetration with any part of the body with the intent to abuse, harass, degrade, humiliate, arouse, or gratify any person. The definition of a sexual act also includes contact between the mouth and any part of the genitals.

In contrast, federal law defines sexual contact as touching or causing another person to touch, either directly or through clothing, any part of the genitals, groin, anus, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of a person with an intent to abuse, harass, humiliate, degrade, arouse, or gratify any person. The definition includes contact with any part of the body or object.

Under federal law, the major difference between rape and sexual assault is the absence of the use of physical force in the sexual assault statute. An individual may be charged with sexual assault in federal court if he or she commits a sexual act on another person by doing any of the following:

  • threatening or placing the victim in fear
  • making a fraudulent representation that the sexual act serves a professional purpose
  • induces a belief by any artifice, pretense, or concealment that the perpetrator is someone else
  • commits a sexual act on the victim without the victim’s consent
  • commits a sexual act on the victim when the perpetrator knows or reasonably should know that the victim is asleep, unconscious, or otherwise unaware that the sexual act is occurring
  • commits a sexual act on a victim who is incapable of consenting due to intoxication
  • commits a sexual act on a victim who is incapable of consenting due to mental disease or defect or physical disability
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Coral Gables sexual battery case

Florida’s statutes do not specifically mention the term “rape.” However, offenses most people would refer to as rape are covered by the state’s sexual battery statutes. Florida law defines sexual battery as an act that involves any type of penetration by or contact with the perpetrator’s sex organ or the anal or female genital penetration on behalf of the perpetrator by an object without the victim’s consent.

In cases in which the defendant and the victim are 18 years of age or older, sexual battery is a first degree felony with a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. If the defendant uses or threatens to use a deadly weapon or uses physical force that is likely to cause serious personal injury, the maximum sentence increases to life in prison. Under Florida law, “serious personal injury” means great bodily harm or pain, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement.

Statutory rape in Florida

Although Florida law does not specifically reference the term “statutory rape,” several of the state’s statutes prohibit individuals who are 18 or older from engaging in sexual activity with anyone who is under the age of 16. Under state law, people who are under 16 years of age cannot legally consent to sexual activity. If an individual who is 18 or older engages in sexual conduct with someone who is under the age of 16, the older individual may be prosecuted under the state’s laws against lewd or lascivious conduct. Minors can also be prosecuted for having sexual contact with another minor if at least one of the parties involved is under the age of 16.

In limited cases, Florida recognizes an exception to the concept of statutory rape. This exception is known more generally as a “Romeo and Juliet” Law. Florida recognizes an exception if a case meets all of the following requirements:

  • the minor is between the ages of 14 and 17 years of age
  • the adult is not more than 1,460 days older than the minor
  • the minor consented to the sexual activity
  • the adult has no prior record of any sex crime

Statutory rape is a controversial subject because there are cases in which a minor defendant does not qualify for an exception, and the court may convict the minor defendant for a felony offense. If your teen is facing a potential statutory rape case, immediately contact a Coral Gables sex crimes defense lawyer.

Florida child molestation laws

Florida’s child molestation laws are mostly contained within the state’s statutes that reference lewdness and lasciviousness. The state’s sexual battery statutes also reference cases in which the victim is a minor. For example, if an adult defendant commits an act of sexual battery against a victim who is 12 years of age or older but under the age of 18, the maximum sentence is life in state prison. If a sexual battery victim is under 12 years of age and the offense causes injury to the victim’s sex organs, the offense may be a capital felony.

LEWD OR LASCIVIOUS BATTERY

An individual may be convicted for lewd or lascivious battery if he or she engaged in sexual activity with a person who is 12 years of age or older but less than 16 years of age. Other acts such as forcing, encouraging, or enticing a minor who is under the age of 16 to engage in any sexual act, sadomasochistic abuse, beastiality, or prostitution also meet the definition of lewd or lascivious battery under Florida law. The definition of “sexual act” under Florida law is similar to the definition under federal law.

Generally, lewd or lascivious battery is a second degree felony with a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The offense is a first degree felony if the defendant has a previous conviction for lewd and lascivious battery or a similar offense against a minor who was under the age of 16 at the time of the offense.

LEWD OR LASCIVIOUS MOLESTATION

Lewd or lascivious molestation is defined as intentionally touching the breast, buttocks, genital area, or genitals of another person who is under the age of 16. If a perpetrator forces or entices a person who is under the age of 16 to touch the perpetrator, the offense is also lewd or lascivious molestation. If the defendant is 18 or older and the victim is less than 12 years of age, the offense is a first degree felony with a maximum penalty of life in prison. Lewd or lascivious molestation is a third degree felony if the defendant is under the age of 18 and the victim is at least 12 years old but less than 16 years of age.

LEWD OR LASCIVIOUS CONDUCT

Lewd or lascivious conduct occurs if an individual touches a person who is under the age of 16 in a lewd or lascivious manner. If a perpetrator solicits a minor who is under the age of 16 to commit a lewd or lascivious act, the perpetrator may be charged with lewd or lascivious conduct.

Lewd or lascivious conduct differs from lewd or lascivious molestation in the degree of specificity in the statute’s description of areas on the victim’s body where the illegal touching may occur. The requirements for a lewd or lascivious conduct conviction are more general than the requirements for lewd or lascivious molestation. Therefore, a defendant may be convicted if he or she did not touch the victim’s breasts, genital area, genitals, or buttocks, but the manner of touching was still lewd or lascivious.

Lewd or lascivious conduct is a second degree felony if the defendant is 18 or older. If the defendant is under the age of 18, the offense is a third degree felony.

LEWD OR LASCIVIOUS EXHIBITION

Unlike the lewd or lascivious conduct and lewd or lascivious battery, lewd or lascivious exhibition does include physical contact with the victim as one of its elements. A defendant may be convicted on a charge of lewd or lascivious exhibition if he or she intentionally does any of the following:

  • Masturbates in front of a minor who is under the age of 16
  • Exposes the genitals in a lewd or lascivious manner in the presence of a minor who is under the age of 16
  • Commits any other sexual act that does not involve physical contact with the victim in the presence of a minor who is under the age of 16
  • Engages in sadomasochistic abuse, beastiality, or the simulation of any sexual act in the presence of a minor who is under the age of 16

If the defendant is 18 or older, lewd or lascivious exhibition is a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Lewd or lascivious exhibition is a third degree felony if the defendant is under the age of 18. If convicted, the defendant may be sentenced to up to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

Coral Gables residents should be mindful of what they do and who may be able to see their actions. Engaging in sexual activity in an area in which children may be passing by, making a sexual gesture, or horse-playing with another adult can be a felony offense if a minor is present. Contact our Coral Gables federal defense lawyer if you are facing a lewd and lascivious exhibition charge.

Child Pornography investigations in Coral Gables

The federal and state governments prosecute child pornography-related offenses as severely as they prosecute other sex crimes. Similarly, an allegation of having involvement with child pornography can quickly damage a person’s reputation and diminish future business and employment prospects. Florida and the federal government target child pornography-related offenses through several different statutes. The following are some of the statutes state prosecutors use to prosecute crimes that relate to child pornography. It is important to note that unlike federal and state statutes that relate to child molestation, rape, and sexual assault, child pornography laws refer to a child as anyone who is under the age of 18. Therefore, laws that reference a lower age of sexual consent are irrelevant in state and federal child pornography cases.

Possession of child pornography

Under Florida law, an individual may be convicted for the possession of child pornography if he or she actively or constructively possesses materials that include a visual depiction of a child engaged in sexual activity. Active possession occurs if the individual has the illegal images on his or her body, in a pocket or accessory in the individual’s body, or within the individual’s reach. Constructive possession refers to storing the illegal materials in an area that is within the individual’s control. Examples of constructive possession include:

  • the defendant has illegal photos of children in the trunk of his or her car
  • the defendant has digital images of children on a storage device in the defendant’s private storage unit
  • the defendant has illegal images on a thumb drive in his or her assigned desk at work

Prosecutors charge one count of child pornography possession for each image. Therefore, a defendant who has 500 illegal images of minors will likely face 500 counts. If convicted, the court may impose a separate sentence for each count. In Florida, possession of child pornography is a third degree felony at the state level. If convicted, the defendant may be sentenced to up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

Federal law prohibits both the receipt and possession of sexual depictions of children. An individual may be convicted for receiving child pornography under federal law if he or she knowingly used a means of interstate commerce to receive the illegal material. For example, receiving child pornography through the mail or in an email from someone who is out of state would qualify as using a means of interstate commerce. Even downloading an illegal image or video from a server that is located in another state would likely trigger federal jurisdiction in a child pornography case.

Receipt of child pornography is a felony offense, punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. Importantly, the offense carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years; therefore, federal courts are automatically required to sentence a convicted defendant to at least five years in prison.  If the defendant has a prior conviction for an offense that is related to the sexual exploitation of a child, the mandatory minimum prison sentence increases to 15 years, and the maximum sentence increases to 40 years in prison.

Possession of child pornography carries a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison. If the illegal material depicts a child who is under the age of 12, the maximum sentence increases to 20 years in prison. A mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison with a maximum of 20 years in prison applies if the defendant has one or more prior convictions for sexually exploiting a minor.

Coral Gables sex crimes appeals

If you have been convicted for a sex crime in Coral Gables, you still have options. Conviction at trial automatically triggers the right to file an appeal. We specialize in helping convicted sex crimes defendants with the appeals process and other options for post-conviction relief.

Filing an appeal in a sex crimes case does not automatically give the defendant a new trial. Instead, a panel of judges at an appellate court reviews the trial proceedings for legal errors. If the trial court made a material legal error that impacted the case outcome, the appellate court should either overturn the defendant’s conviction or reverse the trial court’s decision and send the case back to the trial court with new instructions.

A successful appellate brief is based on one or more legal errors the trial court committed. Some issues that win on appeal are:

  • errors in the instructions the jury received from the judge
  • jury Bias
  • procedural errors
  • illegally-obtained evidence
  • violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights

Our expert Coral Gables sex crimes defense lawyer has decades of experience in successfully filing and winning appeals in state and federal court. Call us to help you continue to fight for justice after a criminal conviction.

Federal sexting charges against Coral Gables teens

Most teens never imagine being forced to appear before a federal judge for sexting. When both parties are overtly consenting adults, the act of sexting, or sending sexually-themed text messages, does not violate state or federal law. However, if at least one party is under the age of 18, sexting is a criminal matter. Moreover, both the state and federal government actively pursue charges in sexting cases.

Adults and minors may be prosecuted for exchanging sexual material via text message with anyone who is under the age of 18. Depending on the facts of the case, state and federal prosecutors charge defendants in texting cases under a variety of statutes, some of which are:

  • receiving child pornography
  • transmitting or distributing child pornography
  • possession of child pornography
  • promoting a sexual performance by a child
  • transfer of obscene material to a minor
  • transmitting material that is harmful to a minor
  • obscene representations of children
  • sexual exploitation of children
  • lewd or lascivious exhibition
  • traveling to meet a minor for a sexual purpose

The stakes are extremely high in teen sexting cases. To parents, we recommend maintaining clear and open communication with your children about the legal and personal risks that are associated with sexting. Joffe Law represents individuals who are facing a state or federal sexting charge.

Contacting a Coral Gables sex crimes defense lawyer

As a premier sex crimes defense law firm in Coral Gables, we take our clients’ legal, personal, and professional well-being very seriously. Our Coral Gables sex crimes defense attorney is well-versed in state and federal law, and we will work diligently to protect your rights. If you have concerns about a sex crimes investigation, call Joffe Law, P.A. for a case evaluation.

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