Tampa Defense Lawyer for Lewd & Lascivious Charges
Let Joffe Law, P.A. help you fight your tough federal case
Florida’s complex criminal code reflects the legislature’s focus on heavily penalizing crimes against children. Therefore, sex crimes against children are subdivided and broken down with great specificity. Lewd and Lascivious Conduct descries the unlawful touching and/or solicitation of a child under the age of 16 in a manner that falls short of the state’s legal definition of molestation. Lewd or lascivious is defined as wicked, unchaste, lustful, licentious, or with sexual intent on behalf of the person who touches or solicits the child. Those charged with this type of crime should seek out the advice of an expert lewd & lascivious defense lawyer in Tampa.
Lewd and Lascivious Conduct is a strict liability crime in Florida. Therefore, a defendant may not argue he or she was not aware of the child’s real age or that the child consented to the sexual contact. The law also does not provide exception in cases in which the defendant and the victim are both under the age of 16 or are otherwise in close proximity in age.
Penalties for lewd and lascivious conduct
Penalties may vary depending on the age of the defendant. If the offender is 18 or older, Lewd and Lascivious Conduct is a Second Degree Felony with a Level 6 degree of severity under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code. If the defendant is convicted, a judge may order up to 15 years imprisonment, up to 15 years sex offender probation, and/or up to $10,000 in fines. In cases in which the defendant is under 18, the crime is a Third Degree Felony with Level 5 severity. If convicted, the judge is required to impose a minimum sentence of 24 months in prison with the option to assign a maximum of an additional five years in prison, five years of sex offender probation, and/or $5,000 in fines. Anyone who is convicted of Lewd and Lascivious Conduct is ineligible for gain time; therefore, he or she must serve his or her prison sentence in its entirety. Those who are convicted must also register as a sex offender and follow state sex offender registration requirements for life.
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
‘Romeo and Juliet’ law
In cases that include very specific circumstances, an individual who is convicted of Lewd and Lascivious Conduct may petition to be excluded from the requirement to register as a sex offender. “Romeo and Juliet” offenders may be excluded from the lifetime sex offender registration requirement if:
- The crime involved a consensual sexual encounter with a minor between the ages of 14 and 17
- The offender was no more than exactly four years older than the minor
- Sex offender registration is required solely due to a single Lewd and Lascivious charge
- The offender has not been convicted of another Lewd and Lascivious, Lewd and Lascivious Exhibition Using a Computer, or Sexual Battery charge.
While the possibility of relief under the “Romeo and Juliet” law exists for some, ultimately qualifying for removal from the sex offender registry is left to the discretion of a judge. Therefore, even if an individual meets all the statutory requirements to qualify for an exception, he or she may still be required to remain registered as a sex offender for life.
Exceptions to minimum sentencing
In certain instances, Florida courts may deviate from minimum sentencing requirements for Lewd and Lascivious Conduct cases. In these cases, one of the following circumstances must apply to the defendant:
- The child initiated, provoked, or was the aggressor in the incident
- The defendant has a mental condition, other than substance abuse or addiction, that requires treatment, and the defendant is willing to receive treatment
- The defendant will be sentenced as a youthful offender before his or her 21st birthday
Defenses in Tampa / Hillsborough County
Although Lewd and Lascivious Conduct is a strict liability offense, those who are accused and face charges may raise certain defenses beyond standard pretrial defenses. If an individual is wrongfully accused of lewd and lascivious conduct that never took place, he or she may argue the charge is the result of a false allegation. False allegations often arise in situations in which an accuser is motivated by jealousy, a contentious child custody case, or mental illness. In these cases, a Tampa Lewd and Lascivious defense attorney would likely investigate the accuser to establish the existence of a motive to make the wrongful accusation.
In proving Lewd and Lascivious Conduct, prosecutors must establish that the defendant behaved with lewd and lascivious intent. Examples that illustrate lack of lascivious intent include a parent or caregiver assisting a child who needs help with grooming and hygiene or a coach patting a child on the buttocks after making a winning play during a game. There are several instances in which an adult may touch a child in a non-sexual manner that may be misconstrued. In these cases, an adult may avoid conviction if he or she is able to establish his or her true intent.
Contact Joffe Law today
Florida’s child sex crime laws have many variables that can be difficult to navigate for the average layman. Therefore, an individual who is wrongfully accused of this or any other type of federal sex crime should immediately call an attorney to receive the help he or she will need to prevail in court. Moreover, an attorney can help during the critical preliminary stages of investigating a sex crime accusation against a child. Having an attorney present can help the wrongfully accused avoid self-incrimination or otherwise making statements that may unnecessarily heighten the intensity of police scrutiny. In addition to helping avoid self-incrimination and wrongful conviction, a Tampa Lewd and Lascivious defense attorney can help individuals who are facing false accusations protect their reputation. Not only can rumors of having committed a crime against a child affect the accused person’s social relationships, but wrongful conviction typically results in the person being required to register as a sex offender. Appearing on the sex offender registry may limit a person’s employment opportunities and may even greatly restrict his or her housing options. In light of the high stakes of a wrongful conviction, no one who is facing a Lewd and Lascivious Conduct charge in Florida can afford to forego the benefit of having an experienced attorney on his or her side. Having a qualified defense attorney may be the difference between enjoying freedom and living a life that is very heavily monitored, ostracized and restricted.