FORT LAUDERDALE SEX CRIME LAWYER
DEFENSE AGAINST SEX CRIME CHARGES IN BROWARD COUNTY, FL
Sex crimes allegations in Fort Lauderdale can profoundly affect a person’s life. Even though, in the eyes of the law, a person is innocent until or unless proven guilty, it can feel the opposite when charged with a sex crime. The accusation alone can result in a social stigma affecting the accused’s personal and professional relationships as well as their standing in the community.
In addition to these immediate and debilitating consequences, a sex crime charge in Fort Lauderdale can result in criminal penalties. Because many offenses are felonies, the accused faces one year or more in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. Even at the misdemeanor level, a sex crime can result in incarceration and financial penalties.
Sex crimes cases are challenging and overwhelming. The State seeks to set an example of anyone involved in this type of conduct and will often pursue maximum penalties upon a conviction. While an investigation will be conducted to gather evidence against the accused, overzealous law enforcement officials might step beyond the bounds of their authority to build a case, violating the rights of the accused in the process.
Because of the complexities of Fort Lauderdale, FL, sex crimes cases, it is important that if you have been charged, you retain legal counsel right away. Building a sex crime defense takes careful and thoughtful planning, which requires a significant amount of time. At Hager & Schwartz, P.A., we are ready to get to work for you. Our Fort Lauderdale sex crimes defense lawyers are former prosecutors who know how the other side builds their cases. We can use our knowledge, skills, and resources to your advantage as we work diligently toward a favorable result on your behalf.
To defend against sex crimes allegations in Broward County, choose our Fort Lauderdale sex crimes attorneys by calling (954) 840-8713 or submitting an online contact form. Your initial consultation is immediate.
WHAT IS A SEX CRIME?
The term sex crime refers to various types of behaviors involving sexual contact, conduct, or content. Both the Florida and federal government have several statutes prohibiting certain sexually related activity.
Sex crimes in Florida include, but are not limited to:
- Sexual battery (rape)
- Statutory rape
- Lewdness and indecent exposure
- Child pornography
- Material Harmful to Children
- Sex trafficking
- Sexual abuse
Prostitution and solicitation involve asking or agreeing to perform sexual conduct in exchange for money or other remuneration. In some cases, it can include forcing another individual to participate in commercial sex acts.
Chapter 796 of the Florida Statutes enumerates several different types of prostitution-related crimes, including:
- Forcing, compelling, or coercing another to become a prostitute: Florida Statutes § 796.04 prohibits anyone from making another person give their body for sexual activity for hire. The offense is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or up to $5,000 in fines.
- Deriving support from the proceeds of prostitution: Florida Statutes § 796.05 provides that it is unlawful for anyone to live off or receive support from funds they know come from another person’s work as a prostitute. A first offense is a second-degree felony. Penalties include imprisonment for up to 15 years and a fine of up to $10,000. A second or subsequent offense is a first-degree, which carries penalties of imprisonment not to exceed 30 years and/or a fine of no more than $10,000.
- Prohibited acts related to prostitution: Florida Statutes § 796.07 forbids several prostitution-related acts. These include running a prostitution business, securing a person for prostitution, receiving a person into a prostitution establishment, taking someone to a prostitution establishment, soliciting someone to commit prostitution, residing or remaining in a prostitution establishment.
The first violation of most of the prostitution-related crimes listed above is a second-degree misdemeanor. Penalties include up to 60 days in jail and/or up to $500 in fines. However, if the offense involved soliciting another for prostitution, it is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a term of incarceration not to exceed 1 year and/or a maximum fine of $1,000.
Florida Statutes § 794.011 concerns sexual battery (rape). Sexual battery is defined as oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by someone else’s sex organs or an object. Generally, the crime is committed when the actor engages in the conduct without the other person’s consent. Violations can be charged as capital, life, first-degree, or second-degree felonies. The penalties for sexual battery in Fort Lauderdale depend on the age of the actor and alleged victim and can include death, life imprisonment, or decades in prison.
Under Florida Statutes § 794.05, persons 24 years of age or older are prohibited from engaging in sexual activity with a minor between 16 or 17 years of age. Statutory rape is a second-degree felony, which carries penalties of imprisonment for up to 15 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Several laws in Florida prohibit lewdness or indecent exposure. Florida Statutes § 798.02 prohibits open and gross lewd and lascivious behavior. Anyone who commits this crime in Fort Lauderdale will be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor, penalized by up to 60 days in jail and/or up to $500 in fines. Under Florida Statutes § 800.02, committing an unnatural and lascivious act is also a second-degree misdemeanor.
If a person exhibits their genitals in a public place or a private place viewable by the public, or if they are naked in public, they could be prosecuted under Florida Statutes § 800.03. First-time violators may be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor and could face up to 1 year of incarceration and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
Florida Statutes § 800.04 lists a range of lewd or lascivious offenses committed against a minor under 16 years of age. These include:
- Lewd or lascivious battery: This involves participating in sexual activity with a minor between 12 and 15 years of age, or forcing someone under 16 years of age to engage in a sex act. It is a second-degree felony, which carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Lewd or lascivious molestation: In Fort Lauderdale, it is an offense to touch the private parts of someone under 16 years of age or force such a person to touch the actor’s private parts. If the actor is 18 years of age or older and the victim is under 12 years of age, a violation is a life felony, punishable by up to life imprisonment. If the actor was younger than 18 years of age and the victim was under 12 years of age or the actor was 18 years of age and the victim was between 12 and 15 years of age, the offense is a second-degree felony. A conviction can result in up to 15 years of imprisonment and/or up to $10,000 in fines.
- Lewd or lascivious conduct: An offense occurs when someone touches a minor under 16 years of age in a lewd or lascivious way or entices someone under 16 years of age to engage in such an act. If the actor is 18 years of age or older, they can be charged with a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines. If the actor is under 18 years of age, they face a third-degree felony charge and up to 5 years in prison and/or up to $5,000 in fines.
- Lewd or lascivious exhibition: Charges for this offense arise when a person exhibits their genitals, masturbates, or engages in sex acts not involving physical or sexual contact in front of a minor under 16 years of age. If the offender was 18 years of age or older, it’s a second-degree felony, with penalties including up to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine not to exceed $10,000. If the offender was under 18 years of age, it is a third-degree felony, penalized by up to 5 years’ imprisonment and/or up to $5,000 in fines.
In lewd and lascivious conduct cases, the defendant cannot raise the alleged victim’s consent as a defense.
Under Florida Statutes § 800.101, if a school authority figure engages in sexual or lewd conduct or has a romantic relationship with a student, they could be charged with a second-degree felony. A conviction could result in up to 15 years of imprisonment and/or up to $10,000 in fines.
Child pornography offenses involve depictions of minors engaged in sexual conduct. They can include luring a child to participate in sexual conduct or transmitting or possessing pornographic material.
Under Florida Statutes § 847.0135, it is illegal to create, print, buy, sell, or transmit any advertisement or notice encouraging a minor to participate in sexually related conduct. Additionally, the statute prohibits using a computer to lure a child to engage in unlawful sexual activity. Both offenses are third-degree felonies, carrying a prison term not to exceed 5 years and/or a fine not to exceed $5,000.
Pursuant to Florida Statutes § 847.0137, it is unlawful to transmit child pornography through electronic means. Violators will be charged with a third-degree felony and can face up to 5 years in prison and/or up to $5,000 in fines.
A person who sells or buys a child for the purposes of having them engage in sexually explicit conduct can be prosecuted under Florida Statutes § 847.0145. This first-degree felony offense is punishable by up to 30 years’ imprisonment and/or up to $10,000 in fines.
Florida has a few different laws concerning displaying, distributing, or exposing minors to harmful materials. Harmful materials depict “nudity, sexual conduct, or sexual excitement” and appeal to sexual interests, are not considered suitable for children, and have no educational value.
Florida Statutes § 847.012 forbids selling or distributing material harmful to a minor. It is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years of imprisonment and/or up to $5,000 in fines.
Under Florida Statutes § 847.0125, the retail display of harmful materials is a first-degree misdemeanor. Conviction penalties include up to 1 year of incarceration and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
Exposing a minor to harmful materials can be prosecuted under Florida Statutes § 847.013. The penalties for this first-degree misdemeanor include a jail sentence of up to 1 year and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
Sex trafficking is a form of human trafficking in which adults and children are transported across borders and forced to participate in prostitution or other commercial sex acts. Traffickers use a variety of means to coerce the individuals into submission including, but not limited to, restraining or confining them, concealing their government identification documents, or causing or threatening to cause harm to any person.
Under Florida Statutes § 787.06, sex trafficking is generally a first-degree felony. Conviction penalties include imprisonment for up to 30 years or life and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
At Hager & Schwartz, P.A., we have extensive experience defending against serious criminal accusations. Our Fort Lauderdale sex crimes defense attorneys have practiced on all levels of the Florida court system and can guide you through your case as we fight to protect your rights and future.
FLORIDA SEX OFFENDER REGISTRATION REQUIREMENTS
A conviction for certain sex crimes in Fort Lauderdale can have lasting effects – even after the individual has completed their sentence. That is because Florida law requires such individuals to register as sex offenders.
Offenses carrying this requirement include, but are not limited to:
- Sexual battery
- Unlawful sexual activity with certain minors
- Lewd or lascivious conduct committed in the presence of a minor
- Computer pornography
- Transmission of child pornography
- Selling or buying minors for sexually related activity
If a person is required to register as a sex offender, they must periodically report to their local law enforcement agency.
They must provide personal identifying information, including their:
- Address, and
- Employment information.
These details are stored in a database, and some of the information is made publicly accessible. Public access to the sex offender registry can make it difficult for the individual to re-enter society, as they can face judgment by community members.
Those convicted of qualifying Fort Lauderdale sex crimes are required to register for life. However, eligible individuals can petition for relief from this requirement after a certain amount of time has passed.
Failing to comply with the sex offender registration requirement is a third-degree felony, penalized by up to 5 years of imprisonment and/or up to $5,000 in fines.
FEDERAL SEX CRIMES LAWS
Just as Florida has laws against certain types of sexual conduct, so too does the federal government. Florida sex crimes and federal sex crimes differ in where and how they are committed. Generally, federal sex crimes affect interstate or foreign commerce, cross state or country borders, or occur on federal property. In contrast, Florida sex crimes occur within the state. That said, there can be some overlap in the laws, and in such cases, the accused can be prosecuted under state or federal laws or both.
Federal sex crimes include, but are not limited to:
Under 18 U.S.C. § 2242, a person commits sexual abuse if they force another individual to engage in sexual activity by causing fear or when the victim cannot apprise the situation or resist. A conviction can result in up to life imprisonment and a fine.
AGGRAVATED SEXUAL ABUSE
Making another person engage in sexual activity by using force or threatening to cause serious bodily injury, death, or kidnapping is prosecuted as aggravated sexual abuse under 18 U.S.C. § 2241. These charges can also arise when a person has sex with someone they rendered unconscious or administered a drug or intoxicant to. The offense is penalized by a fine and up to life imprisonment.
A person may also be accused of aggravated sexual abuse if they cross state lines to have sex with a person under 12 years of age, or engage in sexual activity with someone under 16 years of age and use force or fear to do so. Penalties include a fine and 30 years to life imprisonment.
SEXUAL ABUSE OF A MINOR OR WARD
Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2243, it is unlawful for a person to engage in sexual conduct with a minor between 12 and 15 years of age and at least 4 years younger than the actor. It is also illegal for a correctional facility employee to have sex with an inmate.
These offenses carry a maximum prison term of up to 15 years and a fine.
The federal government has several laws concerning child pornography. They include:
- Sexual exploitation of children: 18 U.S.C. § 2251 prohibits various types of conduct, including enticing or permitting a child to participate in sexually explicit conduct that will be turned into a visual depiction. These offenses are punishable by 15 to 30 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine.
- Selling or buying of children: A parent, legal guardian, or other people with custody of a child can be prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. § 2251A if they sell or transfer the minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct, knowing it will be made into a visual depiction. Others can face prosecution under this statute for buying a child for the purpose of making pornography. A conviction for either offense can result in 30 years to life imprisonment and a fine.
- Activities related to sexual exploitation of a child: Any person who transports, receives, or sells a visual depiction of a child engaged in sexually explicit conduct can be prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. § 2252 and imprisoned for 5 to 20 years. Possessing or accessing more than 1 depiction of a child engaged in sexually explicit conduct is penalized by up to 10 years of imprisonment.
- Activities related to child pornography: Transporting, receiving, distributing, reproducing, or selling child pornography is punishable under 18 U.S.C. § 2252A by 5 to 20 years of imprisonment and a fine.
- Producing child pornography to be imported into the U.S.: Under 18 U.S.C. § 2260, any person outside of the United States who entices a child to participate in sexually explicit conduct to produce child pornography knowing it will be shipped to the U.S. or any person who imports such material can be fined and imprisoned for 15 to 30 years.
If you have been accused of a federal sex crime, it is imperative that you retain legal representation right away. Federal agents and attorneys will thoroughly investigate and prosecute these matters. At Hager & Schwartz, P.A., our Fort Lauderdale sex crimes lawyers will work tirelessly to build a strategy to fight the allegations against you.
FEDERAL SEX OFFENDER REGISTRATION LAW
The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SONRA) provides a set of standards for sex offender registries throughout the nation. Each state and the federal government are required to maintain a database of those convicted of sex crimes. Sex crimes are offenses that contain an element of sexual contact or conduct.
The justification behind SONRA is that it helps maintain public safety, as members of society have important information about convicted sex offenders living in their communities. Sex offenders are required to register with a law enforcement agency within a certain amount of time after they are sentenced (if not imprisoned or if released from prison) and report periodically. They must also ensure that they notify the agency of any change in their information right away.
Failing to register can lead to severe consequences. Under 18 U.S.C. § 2250, noncompliance is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines. The law applies to those convicted of federal sex crimes and those convicted of state sex crimes who travel in or outside of the country.
POSSIBLE SEX CRIME DEFENSE STRATEGIES IN FLORIDA
There are several defenses that can be used in a sex crime case in Florida. Some of these include:
- Consent: If the alleged victim gave their consent to engage in sexual activity, the defense may argue that there was no crime committed. Florida law requires explicit and affirmative consent, meaning that silence or lack of resistance is not sufficient to establish consent.
- Lack of evidence: The defense may argue that the prosecution does not have sufficient evidence to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt (challenging witness testimony, physical evidence, or the credibility of the alleged victim).
- Mistaken identity: If the alleged victim incorrectly identified the defendant as the perpetrator, the defense may argue that they have been mistakenly accused of the crime.
- Alibi: The defendant may have an alibi defense if they can prove that they were elsewhere at the time the crime allegedly occurred.
- Entrapment: If the defendant was induced or coerced by law enforcement to commit the crime, they may be able to argue that they were entrapped.
FIGHT YOUR SEX CRIME CHARGE WITH HAGER & SCHWARTZ, P.A.
Your whole life can be upended by a state or federal sex crimes charge. Although it might feel as if the system is stacked against you, your case is not hopeless. You can challenge the allegations against you and seek to avoid or minimize penalties.
At Hager & Schwartz, P.A., our Fort Lauderdale sex crimes attorneys are here to zealously advocate on your behalf. With our insight and experience, we can evaluate the merits of your case and look for the strengths and weaknesses of the prosecutor’s arguments. We can use our resources to build a strong sex crimes defense strategy tailored for you.