Child Molestation Defense Attorney in Tampa
Joffe Law: Serious representation
for serious sex offense charges
Part of Florida’s complex group of abuse laws that cover federal sex crimes against children, molestation describes consensual sexual activity that falls short of lewd or lascivious battery and involves a child victim who is under 16. Specifically, the offense takes place when a person intentionally touches the genitals, breasts, or buttocks of a child who is 16 or under or if the person encourages, forces, or entices the child to touch another person in a lewd or lascivious manner. The terms “lewd” and “lascivious” are interchangeably defined as wicked, lustful, unchaste, licentious or with sensual intent on behalf of the person who commits the act. Related federal charges are extremely serious, and it’s essential to consult with a Tampa child molestation defense lawyer immediately after you’re charged.
Penalties depend on the ages of both parties
Sentencing for in Florida varies according to the age of the offender and, to some extent, the discretion of the judge. If a person who is 18 or older commits an act of molestation against a child who is older than 12 but younger than 16, the offense is a Second Degree Felony with a severity of Level 7 according to Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code. If the person is convicted, the judge must assign a minimum sentence of 51 month in prison. In addition, the judge may order up to an additional 15 years imprisonment, 15 years of probation and/or a maximum fine of $10,000.
Defendants who are under 18 and are accused of molestation against a child younger than 12 are charged with a Second Degree Felony with a severity of Level 7. In these case, defendants are also sentenced to a minimum of 51 months in prison with a possibility of facing up to an additional 15 years in prison, 15 years on probation, and/or a $10,000 maximum fine.
If a defendant who is younger than 18 commits an act of molestation against a child who is older than 12, but younger than 16, he or she will be charged with a Third Degree Felony with Level 6 Severity. If convicted, the defendant is required to be sentenced to a minimum of 36 months in prison with the possibility of the judge assigning an additional maximum of five years in prison, five years of probation, and $5,000 fine.
All who are convicted of molestation are placed on sex offender probation along with being required to publicly register as a sex offender and comply with offender registration laws in Tampa and throughout the U.S. for the remainder of their lives. For this reason alone, you need the support of an experienced Tampa child molestation attorney to help you mount a powerful defense.
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
‘Romeo and Juliet’ exception
For defendants whose cases meet very specific criteria, there may be an exception to the requirement of lifetime sex offender registry enrollment. A judge may grant an exception if:
- the conviction was for sexual battery
- the crime involved consensual sexual contact between the defendant and a 14, 15, 16, or 17-year-old minor
- the minor was no more than exactly four years younger than the defendant at the time the offense was committed
- the single or sexual battery charge is the sole reason for sex offender registry requirement
- no other or sexual battery convictions exist against the defendant
Exceptions under the “Romeo and Juliet” law are at the discretion of the presiding judge. Therefore, an individual may meet all the requirements for exemption, but may still be required to register as a sex offender if a judge denies the request for an exception.
There are a few mitigating circumstances that may allow the court to deviate from the minimum sentencing requirements. In second and third degree cases, a judge may not be required to apply minimum sentencing if:
- the child initiated or provoked the incident or if the child was the aggressor.
- the defendant requires specialized mental health treatment for a disorder other than substance abuse or addiction and the defendant is willing to receive the necessary treatment.
- the defendant will be sentenced as a youthful offender under Florida law prior to his or her 21st birthday
In addition to standard pretrial defenses, there are other defenses a person who is accused of molestation may successfully argue. An individual who is being falsely accused of sexual conduct with a minor that never took place may argue he or she is the subject of a false allegation. False allegations often arise when one party seeks to damage the reputation of another or if the accuser has a mental illness that causes him or her to make untrue statements. A defendant who touched the child in a manner that is not generally considered to be inappropriate may argue lack of lewd intent. Examples include a parent touching a small child for the sole purpose of assisting with hygiene maintenance or breastfeeding a small child who requires nursing.
Prohibited molestation defenses
There are certain defenses a defendant may not raise. Due to the young age of child victims who are under the age of 16, the law assumes lack of consent. Therefore, a defendant may not argue the sexual act was legal because the victim consented. Defendants are also statutorily prohibited from admitting to the sexual conduct, but arguing the absence of a crime due to ignorance of the child’s age. However, if a defendant argues the accuser made a false allegation, he or she may use proof of deception regarding the child’s age as evidence of the accuser’s preexisting pattern of dishonesty, which may support the claim that the allegation was entirely false. Proximity in age is also not a valid defense; however, age proximity may be presented as grounds for a reduction in sentencing.
Avoid wrongful conviction: Call a sex crimes attorney
Individuals in Tampa who have been wrongfully accused of molestation should call a defense lawyer with a proven track record of success defending serious sex crimes. Strict liability and minimum mandatory sentencing make the stakes extremely high for those who are wrongfully accused. Therefore, having a qualified Tampa child molestation lawyer present during all conversations with law enforcement and throughout the trial process can successfully shield a wrongfully accused defendant against loss of freedom and unnecessary damage to his or her reputation.