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South Beach Sex Crimes Lawyer

Joffe Law, P.A. specializes in defending federal & state sex offenses

If you have been wrongfully accused of a sex crime, you may be haunted by thoughts of the difficult road ahead of you. The good news is you don’t have to travel that road alone. The right defense attorney can help you protect your reputation, preserve your career and family life, and refute the charges against you. For more than 35 years, South Beach sex crimes attorney David Joffe has fought for those facing state and federal charges in South Beach.

Federal and state sex crimes in South Beach

The balmy beaches and high-energy nightlife in South Beach attracts visitors from around the world. For some, the fast-paced, beachside party atmosphere is fueled by drug use, drinking, and bad decision-making. Unfortunately, a night of partying can lead to situations that have lasting legal ramifications. People who aren’t legal scholars are often unaware that as a matter of law, intoxication blurs what may otherwise be a clear indication of sexual consent or the lack thereof.

Sex crimes don’t only arise from decisions made while abusing drugs and alcohol or partying. Unfortunately, a sex offense can occur virtually anywhere. While every allegation should be investigated, there are sometimes instances in which someone may be accused of a sex crime he or she did not commit. Some of the most common reasons for false sex crimes accusations are:

  • mistaken identity
  • contentious divorce
  • malicious intent
  • mental illness
  • revenge
  • blackmail

Our South Beach sex crimes defense lawyer will protect you against the reputational damage and legal issues a wrongful sex crimes accusation can cause. Contact a Joffe Law immediately if you are being accused of a sex offense in South Beach.

How a sex crime becomes a federal charge

Most sex crimes are prosecuted by the state. However, there are certain circumstances that automatically allow the federal government to assume jurisdiction over the matter. A state charge may also be a federal offense if:

  • the activity occurs in the stream of interstate or foreign commerce
  • the activity occurs on government land
  • the activity involves a federal government agency
  • the activity involves a federal government official

Sometimes it may not be clear whether the federal government has jurisdiction over a criminal matter. This is important because federal charges have more severe penalties and may even include mandatory minimum sentences in sex crimes cases. Your South Beach sex crimes defense lawyer will be able to determine whether your federal charges are legally valid and challenge jurisdiction if necessary.

Federal rape and sexual assault cases in South Beach

Before delving into the federal laws against rape and sexual assault, it is important to understand how certain terms are used among legal professionals. Federal law defines “sexual act” as penetration with the intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, or degrade any person or to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person. This is an important distinction because the term “sexual contact” appears in two other federal offenses. Though terms like rape, sexual assault, and sexual contact appear similar and are often used interchangeably, they have distinctly different legal  definitions.

FEDERAL RAPE CHARGE IN SOUTH BEACH

People may not readily think of rape as a federal offense. However, it can be. Federal law defines rape in several ways. A defendant may be convicted for rape under federal law if prosecutors can prove the defendant did any of the following:

  • committed a sexual act on the victim by using unlawful force
  • committed a sexual act on the victim by using force that is likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm to any person to any person
  • committed a sexual act on the victim by threatening or placing the victim in fear that any person will be subjected to death, grievous bodily harm, or kidnapping
  • committed a sexual act on the victim by first rendering the victim unconscious
  • committed a sexual act on the victim by administering to the victim by force or threat of force, or without the knowledge or consent of the victim, a drug, intoxicant, or any similar substance that substantially impairs the ability of the victim to appraise or control conduct

FEDERAL SEXUAL ASSAULT CHARGES

At first glance, the federal rape and sexual assault laws may appear to be virtually identical. The key difference between the two offenses is the use of physical force, violent threats, and the administration of intoxicants by the defendant. Instead, the federal sexual assault statute includes deception, misrepresentation, and the victim’s preexisting mental state as possible elements. An individual may be convicted under federal law for sexual assault if he or she:

  • commits a sexual act by threatening or placing the victim in fear
  • commits a sexual act by making a fraudulent representation that the sexual act serves a professional purpose
  • commits a sexual act by inducing a belief by artifice, pretense, or concealment that the perpetrator is another person
  • commits a sexual act on another person without consent
  • commits a sexual act while knowing or having reason to know that the victim is asleep, unconscious, or otherwise unaware that the sexual act is occurring
  • commits a sexual act while knowing the victim is incapable of consenting to the sexual act due to impairment by a drug, intoxicant, or a similar substance
  • commits a sexual act while knowing the victim is incapable of consenting to the sexual act due to a mental disease or disorder
  • commits a sexual act while knowing the victim is incapable of consenting to the sexual act due to a physical disability

Most people think of rape as a sexual act that occurs without consent. Assuming the perpetrator did not use physical force or cause the victim to become intoxicated, the more accurate charge, according to federal law, would be sexual charge. The terminology for any sex crime will likely differ from state to state and in federal court proceedings. The differences may seem minute, but each term has specific elements the prosecution must prove and sentencing guidelines attached to it. Having a seasoned federal sex crimes defense lawyer by your side will minimize the risk of you being charged for an offense that does not match the facts of your case.

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Sexual battery charges under Florida law

Florida uses the term “sexual battery” to describe the offense most adults would refer to as rape. An individual may be charged with sexual battery under Florida law if he or she commits an act of penetration without consent by using the sex organ or with an object. The section of Florida’s statutes that refers to sexual battery is highly detailed and describes the penalties for sexual battery based on the ages of the defendant and the victim. If the defendant and the victim were 18 or older at the time of the offense and the defendant did not use force, sexual battery is a second degree felony. If convicted, the defendant may be sentenced to a maximum of 15 years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of up to $10,000.

Florida’s sexual battery laws penalize defendants differently based on whether the defendant is a minor and the victim is under the age of 18. An individual who commits sexual battery against a minor victim who is at least 12 years of age but under the age of 18 may be convicted of a first degree felony with a maximum penalty of up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. If the victim is under the age of 12, the offense is a first degree felony with a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Minor defendants in sexual battery cases are generally charged as adults in Florida, though sentencing is more lenient. If a defendant who is under the age of 18 commits an act of sexual battery against a victim who is at least 12 years of age but under 18, the offense is a second degree felony. Cases in which the minor is under 12 years of age are first degree felony cases with a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in prison.

STATUTORY RAPE IN FLORIDA

In Florida, the age of sexual consent is 18. However, the law is not quite so straightforward. Generally, an adult who is 18 or older who engages in a sexual act with an individual who is under the age of 18 may be charged under Florida’s sexual battery law for an offense that is often termed “statutory rape.” However, Florida recognizes a legal exception, known as a “Romeo and Juliet” law for cases in which the defendant is under the age of 24 and the victim is at least 16 years of age. Otherwise, a 24-year-old who engages in sexual activity with a 16 or 17-year-old may be convicted for statutory rape. The state’s “Romeo and Juliet” law also includes an exception in cases in which both parties are between the ages of 13 and 17.

Although Florida does not have a single statutory rape statute, sexual activity with a minor is a felony offense. There are several sections in Florida’s statutes that allow a prosecutor to charge a defendant for engaging in a sex act with a minor. Some examples include the state’s:

  • sexual battery laws
  • lewd or lascivious laws
  • child pornography laws

It is important to note that Florida’s “Romeo and Juliet” law does not prevent people of any age who engage in sexual intercourse with a minor from being criminally prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced. Instead, the law permits defendants who are convicted for statutory rape to file a petition to request removal from the sex offender registry.

Florida’s statutory rape law is a point of controversy because it results in minors being charged with a felony offense if they engage in a consensual sex act with another minor. Florida’s legislature responded to the sex offender registry requirement by enacting the “Romeo and Juliet” law to possibly allow minors to avoid the serious implications of being a registered sex offender. However, if convicted, the felony would remain on the minor’s record.

Lewd or lascivious laws in South Florida

Florida prosecutes child molestation and related offenses under its lewd and lascivious laws. Lasciviousness is generally defined as behavior that is crude, obscene, wicked, lustful, or demonstrative of a preoccupation with sex. Further complicating Florida’s sex crimes laws, the state’s lewd and lascivious statutes prohibit sexual activity that involves minors who are under the age of 16. Although the lewd and lascivious statutes reference sex crimes against minors who are under the age of 16, the state’s official age of consent is 18.

LEWD OR LASCIVIOUS BATTERY

In cases that involve statutory rape, one of the laws prosecutors may use to charge the older party is Florida’s lewd or lascivious battery statute. A defendant may be convicted for lewd or lascivious battery if he or she engages in sexual activity with a person who is age 12 or older but under the age of 16. Encouraging, forcing, or enticing anyone who is under 16 to engage in any act that involves sexual activity is also an act of sexual battery. Sadomasochistic abuse, beastiality, and prostitution are examples of sexual activities that would be included in Florida’s sexual battery law.

Sexual battery is generally a second degree felony offense. However, if the defendant has one or more prior convictions for sexual battery or a lewd offense against a minor, the defendant may be charged with a first degree felony.

LEWD OR LASCIVIOUS MOLESTATION

While lewd or lascivious battery refers to sex acts, lewd or lascivious molestation refers to sexually touching a minor on certain parts of his or her body. A defendant may be convicted for lewd or lascivious molestation if he or she touches the breasts, genital area, genitals, or buttocks of an individual who is younger than 16 years of age. The act of a perpetrator enticing or forcing a person who is under 16 to touch the perpetrator may also be prosecuted as lewd or lascivious molestation.

Lewd or lascivious molestation is a life felony if the defendant is 18 or older and commits the offense against a minor who is under the age of 12. If the victim is at least 12 years of age but under 16 and the defendant is 18 or older, the offense is a second degree felony. Minors who are convicted for lascivious molestation may be sentenced with a second degree felony if the victim is under the age of 12. However, lewd or lascivious molestation is a third degree felony if the defendant is under 18 and the victim is at least 12 years of age but younger than 16.

LEWD OR LASCIVIOUS CONDUCT

The average person may not notice the subtle differences between Florida’s lewd or lascivious molestation law and the state’s lewd or lascivious conduct law. Similar to lewd or lascivious molestation, lewd or lascivious conduct prohibits the act of inappropriately touching a minor. The key distinction between the two laws is lewd or lascivious conduct is not limited to specific areas on the victim’s body, nor does the statute specify what prosecutors must prove to establish that the touching was lewd or lascivious in nature.

In cases in which the defendant is 18 or older, lewd or lascivious conduct is a second degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

LEWD OR LASCIVIOUS EXHIBITION

Florida’s law against lewd or lascivious exhibition is similar to indecent exposure; however, the penalties are much more severe because the exposure is sexual and occurs in front of a minor. An individual may be charged with lewd or lascivious exhibition if he or she:

  • Intentionally masturbates in front of a minor who is under 16
  • Intentionally exposes the genitals in a lewd or lascivious manner in front of a minor who is under 16
  • 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, beastiality, or any simulated sex act

The state’s lewd or lascivious exhibition law means you can’t be too careful when it comes to behaving appropriately when minors are present. Engaging in certain activities when minors are present in your home or even if children are outside your home near a window may lead to a felony charge.

Federal and state child pornography offenses

Child pornography cases very easily become federal cases because people who are interested in sexual images of children often engage in groups that operate in multiple states. People who produce, buy, sell, and share sexual images of children use peer-to-peer file share networks, online classified sites, web forums, chat rooms, and social media to conduct transactions. Related charges require the expertise of an experienced South Beach child pornography defense attorney.

POSSESSION OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY

A defendant may be convicted for possession of child pornography under Florida law if he or she actively or constructively possesses visual depictions of anyone who is under 18 engaging in sexual activity. Active construction occurs when an individual has an item on his or her body, in a pocket, in an accessory the person is wearing on his or her body, or within the individual’s reach. Constructive possession occurs when an item is under the defendant’s control despite being located in another area. For example, if the item is located in the truck of the defendant’s car, in a private locker at work, or in the defendant’s private storage unit, a Florida court would likely conclude that the defendant had constructive possession of the item.

The federal law against the possession of child pornography is similar to Florida’s law, except federal law also explicitly prohibits the receipt of child pornography. People often receive unsolicited spam messages, some of which may contain viruses and explicit content. If an individual receives an illegal image of a child, he or she should immediately delete the photo and report the image to law enforcement.

In addition to possessing child pornography, Florida law and federal law naturally prohibit the act of transmitting or distributing a sexual depiction of a minor. An individual may be charged with transmitting child pornography if he or she uses any means to send or distribute sexual images of a minor.

PROMOTING CHILD PORNOGRAPHY

Florida’s laws against child pornography make it very easy for a possession charge to be elevated to a more serious charge of promoting child pornography. If a defendant has three or more copies of a sexual image of a minor, the court may automatically infer that the defendant had the intent to promote child pornography.

Child pornography and Florida’s sexting laws

Sexting is a serious crime if at least one of the parties who are involved is under the age of 18. Adults who exchange sexual text messages with a minor may be charged under Florida’s child pornography statutes. Some examples of laws prosecutors use to charge adults who violate the state’s law against sexting with a minor are:

  • promotion of child pornography
  • distribution of child pornography
  • transmitting material that is harmful to a minor
  • possession of child pornography
  • traveling to meet a minor for a sexual purpose
  • use of a minor in a sexual performance

Adults should always verify the age of the other party before requesting, receiving, or sending any message that contains nudity or sexual content. South Beach adult entertainment businesses may find themselves under criminal investigation if their recruiting efforts involve exchanging messages with applicants who are under 18. It is also important to note that the state’s sexting law refers to communication through all types of electronic devices, including email, messaging apps, and social media.

South Beach sex crimes defense attorney

Joffe Law is a leading law firm that provides legal defense in sex crimes cases in South Beach FL and surrounding areas. If you are under investigation for a sex offense in South Florida, contact us for a case evaluation.

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