Florida Sexual Assault and Abuse Law

The penalties for conviction of sexual assault or sexual abuse in Florida are severe.

What is Florida Sexual Assault and Abuse Law?

Attorney John Musca
By Attorney John Musca - Criminal Lawyer Florida

Musca Law - Sex Crimes Lawyers Florida Musca Law
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Musca Law is a full-service criminal defense firm with 23 offices in Florida, serves clients throughout the state. Practice areas include child pornography and other sex crimes, federal crimes, DUI (drunk driving) charges, traffic offense, theft crimes, drug charges, violent crimes, juvenile offenses, white collar crime, probation violations, and other felonies and misdemeanors.
The penalties for conviction of sexual assault or sexual abuse in Florida are severe. Individuals who are being charged with a sex crime in Florida should be aware of the nature of the charges against them, the possible consequences they face upon conviction, potential defenses that they may be able to raise and other important information related to these charges.

Sexual Assault Charges in Florida

Sexual assault includes any unwanted sexual contact that is made against another. Florida's statute includes oral, anal or vaginal penetration by another or a foreign object in its definition. Most commonly, these charge arise when one person tries to force another to take part in an unwanted sexual act against his or her will.

Sexual assault victims often face a great deal of fear, shame and emotional trauma. Victims of sexual abuse may have difficulty forming and maintaining personal relationships in the future. Victims often state how the incident affects the rest of their life. Prosecutors often believe victims of these crimes due to the sensitive nature of them and may be more aggressive in their pursuit than in other crimes. These cases often rely heavily on the victim's testimony. These charges are some of the most difficult to defend, increasing the importance of acquiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer for assistance.

Sexual abuse is defined under Florida law as the forcing of unwanted sexual activity on another individual through coercion or threats. Sexual abuse may be charged when an adult takes pictures of a child in the nude, touches the child in an inappropriate manner or acts in a sexual manner toward the child. These crimes are often committed by someone familiar with the child, such as a relative or neighbor.

Penalties for Sexual Assault or Sexual Abuse in Florida

Because of the significant consequences that the victim of sexual assault or abuse can face and the public pressure associated with sex crimes convictions, the penalties for this crime have increased over time. Sexual assault is considered a felony, even when the act was only attempted and not committed. The most serious consequence a person faces is imprisonment for a number of years or even life if convicted. Sexual assault can result in a second degree felony conviction, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $10,000. It can also be charged as a capital or life felony with the possibility of life imprisonment and fines up to $15,000.

Sexual battery of a child in Florida is penalized heavily. If the victim is under age 12 and defendant is also a minor, the defendant may be charged with a life felony with a minimum of at least 25 years in prison. If the offender is 18 or older, the defendant may be given a death sentence for the defendant. If the child is over 12, a prison sentence of up to 15 years may be imposed.

Additionally, a person convicted of an offense of this nature often must register as a sex offender. Convicted individuals may have to pay significant fines. They may be required to fulfill a term of probation or parole and wear a tracking device.

The actual sentence that is imposed depends on a number of factors, including the age of the victim, the age of the offender and the circumstances surrounding the offense. For example, when the defendant is 18 or older and the victim is younger than 12, sexual assault charges may result in a capital felony which carries a minimum of 25 years in state prison before becoming eligible for parole. When a weapon is used or threatened to be used, a life felony may be charged, carrying with it a potential life term in prison and hefty fines.

If the offender is under 18 and the victim is under 12, life imprisonment may be imposed. If drugs were used to incapacitate the victim or the victim was physically or mentally incapacitated and could not resist, the defendant may face up to 30 years in prison in addition to fines. If physical force was not used, a second degree felony with up to five years in prison may be charged. In addition to considering the age of the victim and offender, the court can consider the severity of the abuse and the number of independent instances of abuse.

A mandatory 25-year prison sentence can result if the defendant is considered a dangerous sexual offender. This status can apply when the defendant caused serious injury, the defendant used or threatened to use a deadly weapon, the defendant committed the offense on more than one person or the defendant had a prior sex crime conviction. Other circumstances exist in which the defendant may face additional penalties and enhancements in sentencing due to his or her prior criminal history.

Additional Consequences in Florida

In addition to the possibility of the criminal penalties described above, individuals convicted of sexual assault or sexual abuse often face additional consequences. Sexual abuse or assault charges have some of the most far-reaching consequences of any criminal charges. Often, individuals begin to experience the negative consequences when they are first suspected of the crime and before any conviction results.

Due to their sex offender registration status, convicted offenders may be restricted as to where they may live. They may be prohibited from living in subsidized housing. Their employment opportunities may be limited. They may lose their current job or be unable to find employment because of their criminal record. They may be unable to secure student loans in order to enroll in college and increase their earning capacity. They may be unable to acquire a professional license or work around children. There are websites that neighbors can use to find sex offenders in their area, which may lead to harassment by others and a negative social stigma in their community.

Additionally, individuals who are convicted of a sexual offense may be deprived of their custody or visitation rights to their own children. Individuals who are convicted of this crime or even when they are not may still be subject to civil consequences. Victims can seek damages for medical expenses, psychological treatment and pain and suffering by pursuing an independent civil lawsuit.

Sex Offender Registration in Florida

After conviction of most sex crimes in Florida, the defendant is required to register as a sex offender. This database is controlled by the government. Information is updated about the offender's location and place of employment. Neighbors and employers can request information about sex offenders in their location. Sex offender registration prohibits sex offenders from living by schools or other places where children are commonly present.

Legal Defenses

There may be a number of plausible legal defenses that a defendant may raise when facing charges of sexual assault or sexual abuse in Florida. The defense strategy that a defendant's criminal defense lawyer lodges will depend on the circumstances surrounding the case and the relationship between the alleged victim and the defendant. Some possible defenses include:


A person may be accused of sexual assault or abuse when he or she did not actually commit this crime. The alleged victim may be confused about what happened or may simply be lying because he or she is ashamed for some reason or trying to cover up his or her own acts. The victim may not have been sexually assaulted or abused.

Mistaken Identity

In other cases, the victim may have been sexually assaulted or abused but may be confused about the identity of the person who committed the crime. The victim may not have seen the offender. A neighbor or other eyewitness may have identified the wrong person. The victim or the eyewitness may have recognized the defendant from some other encounter. Photo arrays and lineups are not always dependable.


If the victim was old enough and mentally and physically able to consent and did consent, then sexual assault did not occur.


If the victim alleged that the act was committed in such a manner that would have been physically impossible for the defendant to complete, this defense may arise. Alternatively, if the defendant was in a place that was too far away for him or her to be in the place alleged to be the location of the assault, this defense may be asserted.

Diminished Capacity

Another possible defense is that the defendant did not have the requisite mens rea or mental state to commit the crime. He or she may have had diminished capacity or mental instability at the time of the offense.

Procedural Errors

In some cases, law enforcement may overstep their legal abilities and may violate the defendant's rights. When this happens, evidence that could have been used against the defendant may be suppressed. For example, law enforcement may have searched the defendant's residence without a warrant, or they may not have read the defendant his or her rights when required to do so.

False Accusations

One of the most common defenses to allegations of sexual misconduct is that the defendant is being subjected to false accusations. False accusations regarding sexual offenses are far too common. These allegations often arise during a divorce or child custody case. Florida law permits victims of domestic violence to secure an order of protection. This important order is intended to protect victims of domestic violence from further harm. However, these orders can sometimes be misused because of the benefits that they provide, such as establishing a temporary amount of child support or spousal support, ordering a spouse out of the marital home, ordering property rights to the alleged victim and awarding custody to the petitioner.

In other cases, a spouse or romantic partner may allege that the defendant sexually assaulted him or her with the hope of receiving a larger share of the marital estate. He or she may hope to use the charges as leverage to resolve the civil case, such as divorce or child custody. A parent may even coerce his or her child to say that the other parent or the other parent's romantic partner sexually abused him or her in order to gain sole custody. In other situations, a bad breakup or bad blood between the parties may provide incentive to act in a bitter manner toward the other party. False accusations can be difficult to establish and prosecutors may not believe the defendant's assertions of innocence.

Legal Assistance

Individuals who are suspected of committing a sex crime such as sexual assault or sexual abuse should be aware of their rights. Usually, it is recommended by criminal defense lawyers not to speak to law enforcement and to invoke the right not to speak. If necessary, a criminal defense lawyer can speak on the defendant's behalf and avoid making any incriminating statements. If arrested, the defendant will want to indicate that he or she wants a lawyer and will not say anything else until his or her lawyer arrives.

Due to the significant consequences of a conviction, a defendant must take these charges seriously. Simply hoping that the charges will go away is not a thoughtful strategy. The sooner a criminal defense lawyer is contacted, the faster he or she can take steps to protect the defendant. Additionally, even the belief that a person is suspected of a crime of this nature can attach negative social stigma to him or her, so it is pivotal to act immediately. Law enforcement is not incentivized to explore the possible biases that may be impacting the charges against the defendant, so it is important to retain competent legal counsel who will explore the nature of the charges against the defendant and the circumstances surrounding them. A criminal defense lawyer may ask the defendant to think about any reasons why the alleged victim or his or her family may be making the allegations so that he or she can build a legal defense strategy around this information. He or she can help negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution or lodge a defense in a criminal trial.

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