The age of consent in Florida is an important factor in many prosecutions in this state. However, it isn’t as simple a subject as it seems. Here’s what you need to know if you are ever charged with a crime involving the age of consent in Florida.
Initially, age of consent laws were instituted to prevent sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage. The intent in establishing an age of consent in past centuries was not to protect children from being exploited by adults, but to preserve a young woman’s virginity for marriage.
Florida’s age of consent was shockingly low until the end of the 19th century. Initially set at age ten, the Florida Legislature amended the age of consent to age 18 in 1890.
Originally, age of consent laws only applied to girls. However, in the 1960s and 1970s, legislators across the United States amended their age of consent laws to apply to boys as well.
In Florida, statutory rape is defined as someone 24 years of age or older engaging in sexual activity with someone younger than the age of 18 years old.
Although Florida’s age of consent is 18 years of age, legislators enacted a “Romeo and Juliet” law in 2007 that provides an exception. Under Florida’s Romeo and Juliet law, if
The victim is between 14 years of age and 17 years of age
The defendant is no more than four years (1,460 days) older than the victim
The victim consented to the sexual act, and
The defendant has no prior sexual crimes
If the above criteria are met, the defendant may
Petition to not be added to the sex offender registry
Ask for a reduced sentence
Prevent the filing of charges by the prosecutor
Expunge the defendant’s record upon completion of his or her sentence.
Non-consensual sex with a person under the age of 18 in Florida is considered the crime of sexual battery. The severity of the crime depends upon the age of the victim. If the victim is less than 12 years of age, the defendant is over the age of 18, and the victim’s sexual organs were damaged, it may be charged as a capital felony, which means the death penalty is a possible sentence.
If the victim is 12 years old or older but under the age of 18, and the act was carried out without the threat of violence, sexual battery is the likely charge, which is a first degree felony.
Alternatively, if an adult shares pornographic content from his cellphone or computer with a person under the age of 18 years of age, prosecutors will likely file the charge of sexual battery, which is a first degree felony.
When the age of consent is in question in Florida, a defendant is prohibited from using ignorance of the victim’s age as a defense to the charge. Not knowing exactly what the victim’s age is at the time of the sexual contact cannot be used as a defense. Nor can claiming that the victim lied to the defendant and the defendant did not question the victim’s lie.