Sexual assault in Florida constitutes various acts of sexual abuse or sexual battery such rape, attempted rape, unwanted sexual touching or forcing the victim to perform sexual acts.
Sexual assault and other sex-related crimes in Florida vary in severity based on different factors.
What Are Florida’s Sexual Assault Laws?
There are many different ways a person can be accused of sexual assault in Florida. According to Florida law, sexual assault is any type of unwanted sexual contact against another person. Contact includes penetration through vaginal, oral or anal means and can be done using a body part or foreign object. Sexual assault is defined as any kind of sexual act forced upon another person against their will.
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What Is the Definition of Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault is defined as any type of sexual contact made by one person against another that is unwanted. If a person does not or cannot consent and sexual contact is made, it is considered sexual assault.
How Can Someone Face Sexual Assault Charges in Florida?
A person can face sexual assault charges in Florida if they violate the sexual battery laws. Sexual battery includes sexual assault and rape, which are considered the same crime in Florida. This means that a person has forced sexual intercourse on another person against their will or when the victim is unable to consent. A person cannot consent if they are younger than the legal age of 18, are intoxicated by alcohol or drugs or is mentally incapacitated.
What Are the Different Types of Sexual Assault?
There are many different types of sexual assault. They include unwanted touching or kissing, forced sexual contact, sexual coercion, sexual exploitation, rape, statutory rape, domestic violence, child molestation and stalking.
What Is Unwanted Touching and Kissing?
Kissing and unwanted touching of a sexual nature are considered forms of sexual violence. This can occur anywhere: at a public place such as a bar, the workplace or even on the street. Unwanted touching or kissing is a deliberate action. In other words, an accidental brushing up against a woman’s breasts while passing her in a crowd may not be considered sexual assault.
What Is Forced Sexual Contact?
Forced sexual contact is any kind of sexual assault that occurs against the victim’s will. It encompasses anything from forcible touching to rape to sexual assault to child molestation.
What Is Sexual Coercion?
Sexual coercion is a type of sexual assault that takes place when the abuser exerts pressure against the victim to the point where they reluctantly give in to the abuse. It can also happen when the abuser uses drugs, alcohol or some benefit against the victim or continuously harasses them until they give in due to the pressure.
What Is Sexual Exploitation?
Sexual exploitation is a sex abuse crime that involves the trafficking of and forced prostitution of the victim. This offense is often perpetrated against women and children, but men can also be victims. Sexual exploitation is usually done for monetary gain.
What Is Rape?
Rape is a crime that occurs when a person forces sexual intercourse against another person against their will. There are different categories of rape, but the one thing all of them share in common is penetration by a body part or foreign object. Rape can also take place when the victim is conscious or unconscious due to alcohol or drug intoxication.
What Is Statutory Rape?
Statutory rape takes place when an adult over 18 has sexual intercourse with a minor under the age of 18. A person can be charged even if the minor is 17 years old and close to their 18th birthday. However, the charges are even more serious if the minor is under the age of 12.
What Is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is a crime that involves abuse against a household member. This can include a spouse, dating partner, family member or roommate. In some cases, domestic violence involves sexual abuse as a way for the abuser to control the victim or instill fear in them.
What Is Dating Violence?
Dating violence occurs when one partner subjects the other to various forms of abuse. Often, that includes sexual assault crimes like intimate partner rape or spousal rape. Even when two people are married, any form of sexual assault or abuse between them is against the law.
What Is Child Molestation?
Child molestation is a type of sexual assault or other sex crime perpetrated against a child. It includes a wide range of activities of a sexual nature committed by adults against children: touching, pornography, performing sexual acts in front of a child and other activities for the purpose of sexual gratification. This crime is deemed one of the most serious and carries severe consequences if a conviction occurs.
What Is Stalking?
Stalking is a crime that involves repeated harassment and contact by one person to another. It is unwanted attention forced on the victim after they have made it clear that they want nothing to do with the perpetrator. Stalking is done in ways to instill fear in the victim and often goes hand-in-hand with dating violence. However, the connection between the abuser and victim doesn’t always involve a past dating or any type of romantic relationship. Thanks to the advancements in technology, there are many means for a person to commit stalking: through phone calls, text messages, email, social media posts or contact, video, GPS or other systems for tracking or even installing Trojan horses or other malware on the victim’s computer.
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What Are the Penalties for Sexual Assault in Florida?
The penalties a person can face for a conviction of sexual assault in Florida depend on the specific offense. However, sexual assault itself is classified as a felony even if the act was not carried out and was only attempted. In the most serious cases, first-degree, a conviction carries up to life in prison. A second-degree conviction can result in up to 15 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. In some cases, sexual assault carries capital charges and even heftier fines. Usually, this occurs when the victim is a minor younger than 12 or a person who is incapacitated.
Many people convicted of sexual assault and other sex crimes are also required to go on the National Sex Offender Registry. This can last the rest of the person’s lifetime and carry a variety of consequences that can affect their daily life.
What Are the Minimum and Maximum Sentencing Guidelines for Sexual Assault?
Depending on the nature of the crime, a conviction for sexual assault can result in sentences varying in length. In less serious cases, a person can be sentenced to a minimum of one year in prison. On the other end of the spectrum, a maximum sentence can be life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In less severe cases, the judge might impose a shorter prison sentence without early parole. Some people convicted of sexual assault even end up being allowed to serve probation instead of prison.
What Happens with Third-Degree Felony Sexual Assault Charges?
Third-degree felony sexual assault applies when a parent or guardian forces their child to perform sexual acts with other people. To face such charges, the victim must be younger than 18 years old. However, in Florida, this charge is not as common as other sexual assault charges.
What Happens with Second-Degree Felony Sexual Assault Charges?
A person can face second-degree felony charges for sexual assault if they are older than 18 and the victim is older than 12. No physical force or violence is involved in this crime.
What Happens with First-Degree Felony Sexual Assault Charges?
First-degree felony charges for sexual assault are the most serious. A person can face these charges if they are 18 or older and the victim is at least 12 years of age or mentally incapacitated and unable to give consent to sexual activity. First-degree felony charges can also apply if the abuser used force or a weapon while committing the crime.
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What Are the Most Common Defenses Against Sexual Assault Allegations?
There are a few defenses that can be used in a sexual assault case. They include: that the other party gave consent, it was a false accusation or the defendant has an alibi that can be proven, insanity or intoxication. Depending on the specifics of the case, one of these defenses may be stronger than the others.
What Is the Consent Defense?
The consent defense is exactly how it sounds: it means that the supposed victim of sexual assault actually gave consent to the sexual activity. If this can be proven, it could help when a person has been accused of and charged with sexual assault.
What Are the False Accusation and Alibi Defenses?
The false accusation defense can be used when the defendant can prove that the allegations of sexual assault are untrue. This differs from the consent defense because it doesn’t entail proving that there was sexual activity between the two parties and that the alleged victim consented. Instead, it argues that the allegations are completely false.
The alibi defense is also common in sexual assault cases. It means that the defendant can show that they were not present at the time of the crime. If there’s irrefutable proof that they were somewhere else and witnesses can corroborate it, the alibi defense can be very strong and help their case.
What Are the Insanity and Intoxication Defenses?
The insanity defense means that the defendant was not in their right mind at the time of the offense. If insanity can be successfully proven, the jury can find the defendant not responsible for their actions or reduce the charges from sexual assault to something less severe.
The intoxication defense argues that the defendant cannot be held liable for sexual assault because they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the crime. As a result, this states that the person was not cognitively aware of their actions. If successful, they can be found not guilty or face lesser charges.
Can Victims File Civil Lawsuits Involving Sexual Assault in Florida?
While a criminal lawsuit can occur against a person for sexual assault, the victim can also file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator to get compensation for the damages they have suffered. This includes restitution for what the victim endured during the crime and personal injury damages.
What Is Restitution in Civil Sexual Assault Lawsuits?
Restitution is a form of damages ordered by the court that requires the perpetrator to compensate the victim in a sexual assault case. This occurs when the victim suffers losses as a direct result of the crime.
What Are Personal Injury Claims in Civil Sexual Assault Lawsuits?
In a civil lawsuit pertaining to sexual assault, the victim can claim personal injury damages they experienced as a result of the crime. These damages include their physical injuries and any medical expenses involved in their treatment, emotional distress, anxiety, pain and suffering and post-traumatic stress disorder, expenses related to mental health treatment such as counseling and lost wages and other economic losses due to being unable to work after the attack.
Understanding Sexual Violence Prevention
Education is the key to preventing sexual violence. This should start in school to teach boys and girls alike about the dangers of sexual violence and instill preventive measures in them. Education on safe, healthy dating and relationship skills and how to understand boundaries can help prevent sexual violence. In addition to education in schools, it should occur in the community as well.
Sexual Assault Victims Services
People who have experienced sexual assault or other forms of sexual violence can turn to victims’ services for help. There are national and state help hotlines such as RAINN, which allow them to connect with counselors who can provide them with crucial information. In addition to counseling, there are options for medical assistance that provide rape kits and resources that can help survivors to move on toward their recovery.
Domestic Violence Services
Victims of domestic violence can also seek services for help. There are national hotlines to help and state resources such as women’s shelters to keep victims away from their abusers. Victims can also seek orders of protection to keep their abusers away from them, their family members and friends, their home, workplace or school and other places they frequent.
Understanding the Sexual Assault Services Program (SASP)
The Sexual Assault Services Program (SASP) is a component of the Violence Against Women Act of 2005. It’s a federal fund that exists to help sexual assault survivors to recover. The program provides funding for rape crisis centers and other organizations dedicated to helping sexual assault survivors.
Understanding the Rape Crisis Program Trust Fund (RCPTF)
The Rape Crisis Program Trust Fund (RCPTF) was created by the Department of Health to provide funding to rape crisis centers in Florida. Funding goes directly to helping survivors of sexual assault recover from their trauma and move forward.
Understanding the Services, Training, Officers and Prosecutors Program (STOP)
The Services, Training, Officers and Prosecutors Program (STOP) was created in 2011 to improve the criminal justice system’s response to sexual assault and other violent crimes against women.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What Is the Legal Definition of Sexual Assault in Florida?
In Florida, sexual assault is defined as a felonious crime that occurs when someone forces sexual intercourse or other sexual activity on another person. The attacker and victim can be strangers, acquaintances, family members or romantic partners – even spouses.
What Are the Elements of Sexual Assault in Florida?
For a person to be guilty of sexual assault, certain elements must be present. The first is the lack of consent when the sexual contact occurred. Another element is that threats, violence and/or weapons and intimidation or injury occurred during the commission of the crime. The victim wants to stop the attack but is unable to do so because they are too fearful and feel overpowered. Sometimes, there’s another element: the victim is physically restrained during the act.
What Counts as Evidence of Sexual Assault?
Evidence of sexual assault includes fingerprints, saliva, semen, blood, hair and other forms of DNA. Other things considered evidence are bedding, clothing and anything that might contain traces of the perpetrator’s genetic material.
How Long Do You Have to Press Charges for Sexual Assault in Florida?
In Florida, if a person 18 or over wants to press charges for sexual assault, they must report the crime within 72 hours. In that situation, there is no statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit. If the attack isn’t reported within that time, the statute of limitations for pressing charges is three or four years depending on the degree of the crime.
If the victim is a minor younger than 16, there is no statute of limitations for pressing charges. If the victim is 16 or 17, the statute of limitations is three years.
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