Sex Crimes in Florida: Definitions, Penalties, and Defenses

The fall football season has been off to a bumpy start  criminally speaking.  Several National Football League players have been charged with serious crimes since the beginning of the 2014 season and now it appears that the trend has extended onto the collegiate football field.

Yahoo! Sports is reporting this week that the University of Florida, acting swiftly, has indefinitely suspended freshman quarterback Treon Harris from the universitys football team. Harris is being accused of sexually assaulting a female student in a residence hall on the colleges campus over the weekend, although, no formal charges have been filed against the player. The University’s police department is currently investigating the incident and working with the Gainesville police in the collection of forensic evidence. Harris was considered a contender for the team’s starting quarterback position for the game against Louisiana State University.

Florida State University experienced a similiar situation last season with their star quarterback Jameis Winston. Winston had faced felony charges after being accused of sexually assaulting a woman at an off-campus apartment on Dec. 7, 2012. Unlike Harris’s situation, Florida State allowed Winston to stay with the team, eventually winning the Heisman Trophy and leading the Seminoles to the National Championship in 2013.

Treon Harris accused of sexual assult
Treon Harris is suspended indefinitely for alleged sexual assult

sexual battery in Florida is committed when someone engages in either:

  • The non-consensual oral, anal, or vaginal physical penetration or union with the sex organ of another; or
  • The non-consensual oral, anal, or vaginal penetration of another person with any object.  This definition includes sexual assault and rape. The word rape is no longer used within the Florida criminal code.

Penalties for Sexual Battery in Florida

Generally, sexual battery in Florida is illegal and punished as a felony. Punishment for the crime of sexual battery will vary by degree depending on both the ages of the offender and the victim and any surrounding circumstances. For example, if the victim is mentally impaired or intoxicated at the time of the battery, the offender may face a harsher penalty if convicted.

Most felonies in Florida are designated a level based on the circumstances and then a penalty based on the statutory Criminal Punishment Code. If convicted of a sexual battery and:

  • The offender is 18 or older and the victim is younger than 12 years old, the offender is guilty of a capital felony and must serve at least 25 years in prison, and possibly life.
  • The offender is younger than 18 and the victim is younger than 12 years old, the offender is guilty of a life felony and must serve life not to exceed 40 years in prison.
  • The offender is 18 or older and the victim is 12 years or older, the offender is guilty of a felony in the first degree and may serve up to 30 years in prison.

Fl. Stat. Ann. §794.011.

Jameis Winston was also accused of sexual assult in 2012
Jameis Winston was never officially reprimanded for his alleged sexual assult

Defenses

Individuals accused of sexual battery in Florida have several legal defenses available to them in order to establish their innocence. Three of the most common defenses are:

  1. Victim consent  A defendant may claim that the victim of the sexual battery consented to the sexual activity. The jury must find, however, that the victims consent was knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently given.
  1. Insanity – A defendant may claim that he or she was mentally ill at the time of the sexual battery and therefore could not control his or her own actions. The jury must find, however, that the defendants mental illness prevented him or her from forming the criminal intent necessary to support a sexual battery charge.
  1. False allegations  A defendant may claim that the victim is making a false allegation against the defendant.  Possible reasons for such false allegations by a victim are jealousy, mental illness, or being caught in an affair. It is imperative that an alleged victim’s motives for bringing the charges against the defendant are fully examined.

Also, it is important to remember that ignorance of the victims age is never a defense to sexual battery in the state of Florida. And further, in Florida, there is no defense to a sexual battery or rape that occurs within the context of a marriage.

Being accused of sexual battery is a very serious situation. You will need a competent attorney to represent you during your trial or the appeal process. Please contact us if you or someone who know needs further information or help with a criminal appeal in Florida.

Speak with an appellate lawyer.