Rape is a scary word, but don’t let it scare you away from talking to your son or daughter about Statutory Rape. Though we are used to associating the word “rape” with an assault, Statutory Rape does not require the prosecutor to prove an assault. Nevertheless, it is still considered rape.
You and your newly-minted 18-year old should be aware of the age of consent in Florida, particularly if your son or daughter is in a relationship with an individual under the age of 18. The age of consent to engage in sexual intercourse with another individual in the state of Florida is 18. However, if your minor teen is at least 16 or 17 years of age, they may consent to intercourse with anyone up to the age of 24. In these cases, unless the minor is disabled, the adult will not be subject to penalty. In Florida, charges of Statutory Rape may be filed against anyone over the age of 24 who has consensual sexual intercourse with a minor or anyone between 18 and 24 who has non-consensual sexual intercourse with a minor aged 16 or 17. Unless the minor is 16 or more years of age, the parents have the authority of consent.
Charges of Statutory Rape can be a very sensitive and intricate area of the law, particularly when dealing with clients whose boyfriend or girlfriend is a minor, because oftentimes the difference in age is only a few years, and many parents, in an attempt to end the relationship, may decide to press charges. Other times, because of the relative immaturity of the individuals involved, a minor “girlfriend” may be tempted to press charges against her older “boyfriend” (or vice versa) if the relationship ends and the girlfriend or boyfriend feels scorned. Either way, it is an extremely slippery slope, so take the time to speak to your young adult about the potential consequences of such activity and the harsh legal penalties involved.
And harsh those penalties are: If your son or daughter is convicted of Statutory Rape in Florida, they could be looking at a sentence for first-time offenders of up to 15 years in prison, and a 30-year prison term could be imposed on your son or daughter if they have a prior statutory rape conviction. These are life-changing penalties. How harsh a sentence imposed depends largely on the individual circumstance of the act and the quality and effectiveness of your criminal defense attorney.
Consent is not a defense to Statutory Rape like it is in cases of rape. With statutory rape laws, minors are legally not capable of providing their consent to sexual activities, which means that even if the minor willingly engaged in those sexual activities, the activities are still considered illegal and the defendant could be convicted of statutory rape.
What happens when a defendant who has been accused of statutory rape claims ignorance regarding their partner’s age? Or when a victim lies to the defendant about their age? In Florida, even a reasonable mistake as to the victim’s age will not be a defense to a charge of statutory rape.
What is the “Romeo and Juliet” exception? The “Romeo and Juliet” exception applies to teenagers who have consensual sex with others close to their same age. In Florida, when the minor is 14-17 years old and the defendant is no more than four years older than the minor, there is a limited Romeo and Juliet exemption for consensual sex. If the defendant meets certain eligibility requirements under the exception, it can remove the sexual registry requirement, but it does not exempt the defendant from being fined and/or imprisoned.
If you or someone you know is facing a charge of Statutory Rape, it is important to be represented by an experienced criminal defense attorney.
For victims of sexual assault or rape, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) can offer online help and provide you with support and resources in your area.
RAINN: 1-800-656- HOPE or www.rainn.org