How Statutory Rape Laws Work In Florida
Let’s consider the following hypothetical situation. David is a 25-year-old graduate student. He goes to a local bar one night to enjoy a few drinks with his friends. While at the bar looking to get another beer, he meets a young woman named Irene. She’s sitting by herself and sipping a drink. David decides to flirt with her. She flirts back. There’s clearly a spark. Cut to a few hours later, and David and Irene are back at his apartment enjoying an evening of sex.
A few weeks later, the police come knocking on David’s door. It turned out that Irene was only 17. Since David is 25, he is now under arrest for committing rape. David insists he is innocent–sure they had sex, but it was consensual! And in any case, he never knew she was under 18!
It does not matter. Under Florida law, David committed statutory rape. And we are not talking about a misdemeanor here. This is a second-degree felony under Florida law. This means that if David is tried and convicted in court, he is facing up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Neither Consent Nor Knowledge of a Minor’s Age Matter
Section 794.05 of the Florida Statutes spells out the state’s statutory rape law. It is pretty simple to understand. If a person 24 years or older has sex with a person who is 16 or 17, they have committed statutory rape.
“Consent” is not a defense. The whole point of the statutory rape law is that a minor is legally unable to give consent to engage in sexual activity with an adult. Even if the minor initiates sexual activity and later goes to the police crying rape, the adult is still considered the wrongdoer.
But what if the defendant did not know the accuser’s age? Returning to our hypothetical example, it is reasonable that David assumed Irene was over 18–indeed, over 21–because he saw her drinking at a bar. Presumably, Irene used a fake ID to get into the bar. So how can he be held accountable for a minor lying about her age?
Again, the law does not care. In a statutory rape case, the prosecution does need to prove the defendant actually knew the victim’s age. All the State’s Attorney needs to do is prove the defendant had sex with a person who was 16 or 17 years of age.
Keep Your Mouth Shut and Call a Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney
This is where many statutory rape defendants hang themselves. When questioned by law enforcement, they will admit to the sex but then try and argue it was consensual or they thought the other party was an adult. This is precisely the sort of situation where your best option is to keep your mouth shut and say nothing. You always have the right to invoke your right to remain silent.
You also have the right to speak with an experienced Tampa sex crimes lawyer. If you are facing charges and need representation, contact the Faulkner Law Group, PLLC, today to schedule a consultation.