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Coconut Grove Sex Crime Lawyer

Joffe Law, P.A. specializes in federal & state criminal charges

Sex crimes can potentially disrupt the lives of the individuals, families, and communities they affect. Members of the surrounding community may become more concerned about their safety. The accused party may lose custody of his or her children. Other family members may feel like they can no longer trust the accused. Neighbors whisper. Rumors spread. If the accused party owns a business, that business is more likely to suffer. If the accused works for an employer, his or her job may be in jeopardy. It’s easy to not feel empathy for a sex offender who has harmed someone. But these things can also happen when someone has been wrongfully accused. Joffe Law, P.A. represents people who have been accused of a sex crime in South Florida. Our Coconut Grove sex crimes defense attorney has more than 35 years of experience fighting for the rights of people who have been wrongfully accused or convicted federal and state sex crimes.

Wrongfully accused of a sex crime in Coconut Grove FL?

Allegations of sex crimes are serious matters. They should always be thoroughly and properly investigated. However, there are times when accusations are legitimately proven to be false. Wrongful sex crimes accusations arise in different ways. Some examples we most commonly see are:

  • mistaken identity
  • revenge
  • blackmail
  • contentious divorce, child custody case, or other legal dispute
  • mental illness

If you have been falsely accused of a sex crime in Coconut Grove, you are likely wondering how you can protect your reputation and avoid a wrongful conviction. Retaining a seasoned Florida sex crimes defense lawyer is the best approach to protecting yourself from the potential damage a false sex crimes allegation can do to your personal relationships and professional life.

Just Arrested in Coconut Grove?
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an lawyer first.

Sex crimes as state and federal offenses

For people who are charged with a sex crime, the prospect of going to prison is very real. Most sex offenses are state crimes; however, in some cases, the federal government may also simultaneously exercise jurisdiction. If a defendant faces charges in federal and state court, he or she may be subjected to two sets of court proceedings and, if convicted in both venues, two separate sentences that arise from the same incident. The federal government may invoke jurisdiction if any of the following factors are present in a case:

  • the activity takes place within the stream of interstate or international commerce
  • the activity occurs on federal government property
  • the activity involves a federal government agency
  • the activity involves a federal official
  • the activity occurs in a U.S. territory

Sometimes it may be unclear whether the federal government has rightfully claimed jurisdiction over a case. Your Coconut Grove federal defense lawyer may challenge jurisdiction if there is ambiguity in your case.

Federal and state rape and sexual assault laws

People often use words like “rape” and “sexual assault” interchangeably. However, everyday terms people use to describe sex offenses have very specific meanings when it comes to the law. In fact, the legal definitions of these terms often differ from state to state and when comparing state law to federal law.

Rape and sexual assault under federal law

The federal statutes list several situations that meet the definition of rape. Assuming the jurisdictional requirements are met, an individual may be convicted for rape under federal law if he or she commits a sexual act upon someone else by:

  • using unlawful force against the victim
  • using force that is likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm to any person
  • 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 threat of force, or without the knowledge or consent of the victim, a drug, intoxicant, or similar substance that substantially impairs the victim’s ability to appraise or control conduct

As a matter of federal law, one of the main differences between rape and sexual assault is the element of physical violence or unlawful force or the threat thereof. If the defendant actively drugged, intoxicated, or otherwise incapacitated the victim, the offense is rape. In contrast, misrepresentation, general threats, and the victim’s preexisting physical and mental states are elements in the federal sexual assault statute. An individual may be convicted under federal law for sexual assault if he or she commits a sexual act upon someone else:

  • by threatening or placing the victim in fear
  • by making a fraudulent representation that the sex act serves a professional purpose
  • by inducing a belief by artifice, pretense, or concealment that the perpetrator is someone else
  • without the victim’s consent
  • while knowing or having reason to know that the victim is asleep, unconscious, or otherwise unaware that the sex act is occurring
  • when the victim is incapable of consenting to the sexual act due to impairment by a drug, intoxicant, or similar substance and the perpetrator knows or has reason to know about the victim’s impairment
  • when the victim is incapable of consenting to the sexual act due to impairment by a mental disease or disorder and the perpetrator is aware of the condition
  • when the victim is incapable of consenting to the sexual act due to impairment by a physical disability

Federal law also recognizes aggravated sexual contact and abusive sexual contact as separate offenses. The sexual assault statute draws a distinction between the terms “sexual act” and “sexual contact.” Under federal law, a sexual act involves penetration, whether with a male sex organ or with any object, with the intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person. Sexual contact refers to the non-consensual touching of, or causing the victim to touch, the breasts, genital area, genitals, inner thigh, or buttocks with the intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.

Aggravated sexual contact occurs if the defendant commits an act that would otherwise meet the definition of rape if penetration had occurred. Abusive sexual contact describes an act that would otherwise meet the definition of sexual assault if penetration had occurred. These are generally cases in which the perpetrator made non-penetrative contact with the genitals or other parts on the victim’s body that meet the federal definition of rape.

Sexual battery cases in South Florida

Florida prosecutors charge rape and similar offenses under the state’s sexual battery law. There is no specific mention of the word “rape” in the state’s statutes. However, under state law, the definition of sexual battery is very similar to how the federal statute defines rape. Florida’s sexual battery law is very detailed in that it specifies different penalties for different defendants based on the age of the defendant and the age of the victim at the time of the offense and other aggravating factors.

Sexual battery under Florida law

State law defines sexual battery as penetration by or union with the male sex organ or any other object. Defendants who are 18 or older and are charged for sexual battery against an adult victim may be convicted for a second-degree felony offense if the defendant did not use physical force. If convicted, the defendant may be sentenced to a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The law outlines several circumstances under which the charge may be enhanced to a first-degree felony even if the defendant and the victim are 18 or older. An adult defendant may be charged with a first-degree felony for sexual battery if:

  • the defendant is helpless to resist
  • the perpetrator coerces the victim by threatening to use force that is likely to cause serious personal injury to the victim and the victim reasonably believes the offender has the present ability to carry out the threat
  • the perpetrator coerces the victim by threatening to retaliate against the victim or any other person and the victim reasonably believes the offender has the ability to carry out the threat
  • the perpetrator, without prior knowledge or consent, administers or has knowledge of someone else administering to the victim any narcotic, anesthetic, or other intoxicating substance that mentally or physically incapacitates the victim
  • the victim has a mental disorder and the victim knows or has reason to know

Compared to the federal rape and sexual assault laws, Florida’s sexual assault law is more comprehensive. The state prosecutes a variety of offenses that may have other names in other jurisdictions under a single, multifunctional statute.

Coconut Grove statutory rape law

The concept of statutory rape can be somewhat confusing in Florida. States have enacted statutory rape laws, which specify a legal age of sexual consent, to prohibit adults from engaging in sexual acts with minors.

In Florida, the official age of sexual consent is 18. Anyone who engages in sexual activity with anyone who is under the age of 18 may be prosecuted under Florida’s sexual battery statute, lewd and lascivious laws, and possibly other laws that prohibit the exploitation of children. An exception exists under certain circumstances for adults who are under the age of 24. Florida’s law against “unlawful sexual activity with certain minors” prohibits adults who are age 24 or older from engaging in sexual activity with any minor. However, an exception to Florida’s sexual battery and lewd and lascivious laws exists for cases that involve sexual activity between adults who are between the ages of 18 and 23 and minors who are 16 or 17 if both parties consent. Although adults may not be prosecuted for sexual battery or a lewd or lascivious act if both parties are between the ages of 16 and 23 and the minor consents, adults may still be prosecuted under other laws such as the state’s child pornography laws if the parties exchange sexual messages, create sexual videos and images, or otherwise engage in activity that may be interpreted as exploiting a minor.

Statutory rape law is controversial because teens can be prosecuted and convicted if they engage in consensual sexual activity with another teen. In response many states have introduced “Romeo and Juliet” laws that grant an exception to the statutory rape law under certain circumstances. Under Florida law, people of any age who engage in sexual activity with a minor may be charged with a felony and required to register as a sex offender if convicted. Florida’s “Romeo and Juliet” law offers a limited amount of leniency under certain circumstances by allowing minor defendants who are convicted for engaging in sexual activity with a minor. Minors who are between the ages of 13 and 17 who are convicted for engaging in sexual activity with a minor may not be required to register with the state sex offender registry if the case meets all the following conditions:

  • the victim was at least 14 years old at the time of the offense
  • the defendant is no more than four years older than the victim
  • the victim consented to the sexual activity
  • the defendant has no prior or pending sex-related charges

The best way to avoid criminal prosecution for engaging in sexual activity with a minor is to avoid having sexual interactions with people who are under 18. Nevertheless, there may be situations in which both parties are relatively close in age, and the adult party is unaware of the minor’s age. Ignorance of the minors age is not a valid defense in most cases; however, a Coconut Grove sex crimes defense lawyer may be able to minimize the very serious legal ramifications the state may otherwise impose.

Coconut Grove lewd and lascivious laws

Florida’s lewd and lascivious laws address child molestation and other sexual offenses against children. These laws are only one section of the state legal code that prohibits sexual activity with minors. The state’s lewd and lascivious laws also encompass sex crimes that do not involve physically touching the victim. Some of the state’s lewd and lascivious laws include:

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

Contained within the lewd and lascivious statues are different sentencing guidelines for defendants based on the ages of the defendant and the victim. In most cases, lewd and lascivious acts are second degree felonies if the defendant is 18 or older and the victim is between the ages of 12 and 16. Lewd and lascivious cases in which the defendant is an adult and the child is under the age of 12, are most often first-degree felony cases. If a case involves certain aggravating factors, the maximum sentence may be enhanced to life in state prison.

Lewd and lascivious offenses are most often third-degree felonies if the defendant is under the age of 18 and the victim is at least 12 years of age but younger than the age of 16. If the defendant is under 18 and the victim is under the age of 12, a lewd and lascivious offense is a second-degree felony.

Child pornography offenses

Child pornography-related offenses are often both federal and state offenses. Sexual images of children are most often traded among people who move in secrecy to avoid detection. They buy, sell, and distribute the illegal materials through chat rooms, web forums, online classified ad sites, and social media. Digital technology makes it easier for people who have an interest in child pornography to make transactions with likeminded people across the country with virtual anonymity. Because child pornography often enters the stream of interstate or international commerce, the federal government can exercise jurisdiction with relative ease in most cases.

Charged for possession of child pornography in Coconut Grove FL

Possession of child pornography is a felony offense under federal and state law. Both Florida law and federal law similarly define child pornography as a visual depiction that portrays a minor engaged in sexual conduct. Federal law also refers to child pornography as “child sexual abuse images.” Both Florida law and federal law prohibit computer-generated depictions that appear to be actual minors engaging in sexual activity.

Each sexual image of a child counts as a separate count when prosecutors charge a defendant for possession of child pornography. Therefore, if a defendant has 100 sexual images of minors, he or she may be charged with 100 counts of child pornography. If convicted on all 100 accounts, the individual may be sentenced for each count separately. If charged, you need the services of an experienced child pornography defense attorney in Coconut Grove to ensure your rights are protected throughout the process.

Under federal law, the maximum sentence for possession of child pornography is 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. If the material depicts a minor who is under the age of 12, the maximum sentence increases to 20 years in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

Receipt, distribution, and reproduction of child pornography

Florida and the federal government prohibit the transmission and distribution of child pornography. Receiving, reproducing, or distributing child pornography is a federal matter if the materials have been mailed or moved through interstate or foreign commerce. The federal government’s definition of “mailed or moved through interstate or foreign commerce” is very broad and includes:

  • sending child pornography through the U.S. Postal Service
  • shipping through any common carrier that uses any mode of transportation
  • transmitting a sexual image of a minor
  • delivering an image of a child that has been saved on a disc or external drive that was manufactured in another state or country

Depending on how the materials are stored, received, and distributed, federal jurisdiction may be implicated in a case that may seem like it should only be a state matter. For example, if a defendant in Coconut Grove uses a Toshiba laptop to email child pornography to someone who lives down the street, the case may be a federal matter if the laptop was manufactured outside of Florida.

Coconut Grove child pornography cases that do not meet the jurisdictional requirements to become federal cases are prosecuted by the state of Florida. An individual may be convicted for transmitting or distributing child pornography under Florida law if he or she uses any means to send, distribute, or deliver child pornography.

The penalty for a charge of receiving, distributing, transporting, or selling child pornography under federal law is a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. In cases that involve defendants who are charged for receiving child pornography, federal prosecutors will sometimes drop the five-year mandatory minimum sentence if the defendant pleads guilty to possession of child pornography.

Florida sexing law

Sexting, the act of sending text messages with sexual content, is prohibited under federal and Florida law if anyone who is under the age of 18 is involved. The penalties for sexing with a minor are more lenient in cases in which both parties are minors. Adults who solicit, receive, or send sexual text messages to a minor are charged under the state’s child pornography laws and other statutes that address the exploitation of a minor, all of which are felony offenses. Minors who exchange sexual text messages with other minors may be ordered to complete eight hours of community service, pay a fine of up to $60, and complete a course on the dangers of sexting. The offense increases to a misdemeanor for a second charge and a third-degree felony for minors who are convicted for a third time under the state’s sexting law.

Coconut Grove lawyer for sex crimes appeals

Unfortunately, wrongful convictions for sex crimes do sometimes happen. If you or someone you know would like to appeal a sex crimes conviction in South Florida, you need the expertise of a successful federal appeals lawyer in Coconut Grove. Joffe Law, P.A. is available to assist convicted defendants with filing state and federal appeals in sex crimes cases. We can also inform you about other options for post-conviction relief.

Contact a Coconut Grove sex crimes defense lawyer

Sex crimes accusations should always be taken seriously. If you have been accused of a sex offense in Coconut Grove FL, retain a Florida sex crimes defense attorney at the first sign that you may be under investigation. Your attorney can help you protect your reputation and defend your constitutional rights. Contact Joffe Law, P.A. to speak to our Coconut Grove sex crimes defense attorney or to schedule a case evaluation.

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