If you’re charged of a sex crime, you could be confused out about the exact charges you’re facing.
Of course, you’re probably worried about what kind of consequences may lie ahead. Are you going to get sent to prison? Will you have to pay thousands of dollars in fines? Are you going to be able to go to school or get a job after you come out of prison?
By learning about different sex crimes and charges, you can find out what could happen if you’re convicted. You can also figure out how to defend yourself with the help of a criminal defense lawyer in West Palm Beach, who will fight your charges and stand up for you in court.
What Is Sexual Battery?
In Florida, sexual battery occurs when one party forces their victim to engage in sexual intercourse in a manner that is against their will. In some states it doesn’t mean the same as rape, but in Florida, sexual battery and rape are the same thing. Sexual battery charges could also apply if the victim is passed out or otherwise mentally incapacitated and cannot give consent.
How Sexual Battery Is Charged in Florida
Sexual battery is charged in Florida depending on the circumstances of the crime allegedly committed.
If the victim is younger than 12 years of age, and you are younger than 18, and you either commit sexual battery or attempt to and damage the victim’s sexual organs, you could get up to 40 years in prison and have to pay a fine.
If the victim is younger than 12 years of age, and you are older than 18 years of age and you commit or attempt to commit sexual battery and cause damage to the victim’s sexual organs, you could be found guilty of a capital felony. You may get life in prison and have to pay a fine. You’ll have to serve at least 25 years before you can even become eligible for parole. If you use or threaten to use a deadly weapon, you could be charged with a life felony, and you could get up to 40 years in prison and have to pay a fine.
If the victim is older than 12 years of age, and you are older than 18, it could be a first-degree felony. This would apply if you were to drug the victim or held them back physically from being able to escape. You could get up to 30 years in prison, have to pay a fine, or both.
Any time the following occur, the charges could be bumped from sexual battery to aggravated sexual battery:
- The victim is physically or mentally incapacitated
- There’s a threat of harm or actual harm
- A weapon or force are used
- The victim is a minor
Of course, aggravated sexual battery is much more serious and could lead to further charges and harsher penalties. For help navigating your sexual battery charges, make sure you reach out to a criminal defense lawyer in West Palm Beach.
What Is Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault is when one party makes unwanted sexual contact with their victim. This could include oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by another person or with a foreign object. Sexual assault typically happens when the victim does not want to engage in intercourse but the attacker forces them to do so anyway.
How Sexual Assault Is Charged in Florida
In Florida, sexual assault is a felony whether or not you tried to commit the act or you actually did it. You could get a second-degree felony charge at the very least, which would entail having to spend up to 15 years in prison and paying up to $10,000 in fines. In the worst-case scenario, you could be charged with a capital or life felony, which could include life in prison and fines up to $15,000.
When it comes to sexual assault, the circumstances of the crime will determine your charges. The age of the alleged victim, whether or not force or a threat of force were used, and whether or not a weapon was used will be all be considered.
What Happens After You’re Charged with Sexual Assault or Sexual Battery?
When you’re first arrested for sexual assault or sexual battery, you will be charged with a felony. The nature of your alleged crime will determine the felony type.
At any point, you could call your criminal defense lawyer for help. Once a court date is set, you and your lawyer will go over the details of your case and figure out your defense. They will attempt to get the charges taken away altogether or at least reduced as much as possible.
If you are convicted of any crime, you may have to go to state prison, pay fines, and go on parole once you are released. If you’re convicted of a capital felony, you may never get out of prison.
If you are not convicted of a capital felony, however, your prison time will vary. Once you’re out, you’ll go on parole and need to start rebuilding your life. This means securing housing and a job.
It is very difficult for felons to get jobs since employers do background checks and can see your criminal record. Additionally, landlords can see the same information and may not want to rent to a felon because they are worried about what you may do. And even if you want to go back to school, you could have a hard time procuring government funding because it’s not available for felons.
Your options would be to live with a family member or in a halfway house for other ex-felons reintegrating into society upon release. You could also find affordable education, like a technical training school, and become good at what you do so employers will be more likely to hire you.
Also, make sure you do what your parole officer says, which could include undergoing regular drug testing and not traveling outside of a certain area. You’ll also have to meet with them on a certain basis. If you violate your parole – even if it’s unintentional – you could end up back in prison.
How to Prove Sexual Assault or Sexual Battery
Proving sexual assault or sexual battery is not easy.
First, the alleged incident needs to have happened within the statute of limitations timeframe, if it applies. In Florida, there is no statute of limitations if sexual battery or sexual assault results in a capital or life felony, or a felony that led to a death. If the victim of sexual battery is under 16, then there is no statute of limitations, either.
There is a four-year statute of limitations if it’s a felony of the first degree. For other felonies, the statute of limitations is three years.
Therefore, if there is a statute of limitations and the alleged victim does not bring about charges before that time is up, then their case will likely be thrown out the door.
Additionally, the alleged victim has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they did not consent to the encounter. The defendant does have that same burden of proof.
There also needs to be physical evidence. You can’t just go off “he said, she said” since these charges could cause great damage to someone’s reputation and life.
In terms of physical evidence, if the victim underwent a sexual assault forensic exam, a healthcare professional may have collected physical evidence like DNA on the victim’s body, clothes, and other personal items.
This is also called a rape kit, and the victim needs to have done it pretty soon after the incident. If they took a bath, washed their clothes, combed their hair, or used the restroom, they may have damaged the evidence. Even if the victim doesn’t report the alleged crime right away, they can store the evidence from the rape kit for safekeeping should they decide to press charges later on.
A victim who believed they were drugged before the alleged incident happened may have gotten a urine test done. If drugs like Valium or Rohypnol show up in their system, it means that someone could have slipped them something.
If there were any witnesses to the crime, they may testify in a case to prove that the incident occurred. A witness could include a parent or other adult the alleged underage victim reported the crime to at the time.
If the victim is not underage, perhaps a friend saw the victim leaving the room with the alleged rapist. However, witness statements are not always reliable because unless they saw the actual act, they may not know exactly what they were witnessing.
Defending Yourself Against Sexual Assault or Sexual Battery Charges
The most obvious way to defend yourself against sexual assault or sexual battery charges is to say you were not there. You could have an alibi ready to go. Maybe you were with a friend or you were at work and nowhere near the alleged victim at the time of the incident.
If you were there, and the act did occur but was consensual, you may have to think about why the alleged victim said it was not. What would their motivation be for trying to bring these charges against you?
The insanity defense could be invoked, though it is very hard to prove and rarely results in a win. In Florida, to prove insanity, you have to show that you had a mental disease or defect, you did not know what you were doing or what the consequences were going to be, and if you did know what you were doing and what the consequences would be, you still did not know they were wrong.
If the insanity defense does go through, you might have to go to a psychiatric institution that for a longer time than your actual jail sentence. Plus, you may have to be under supervision once you’re released.
For sexual assault and battery cases, keep in mind that if the act did occur and the alleged victim gave consent but they were underage or otherwise mentally incapacitated, that could be a problem and you may not be able to defend yourself this way.
Will Criminal Charges Stay on Your Record?
If you are convicted of sexual battery or sexual assault charges, they will stay on your record. Felony charges cannot be expunged, or deleted, from your criminal record.
However, if you fight the charges in the first place, then they will not be listed on your record. You can fight them with the assistance of a criminal defense lawyer in West Palm Beach.
Even if you don’t have an alibi or think you have a strong defense, a good criminal defense lawyer will be able to look at all the facts of the case and see if there are any defenses. For example, even if you were arrested, the officer may have processed you incorrectly at the station. Perhaps you didn’t know what you were being arrested for, or the police officer bungled the evidence in the case.
Maybe when the alleged incident occurred, someone slipped you drugs or otherwise coerced you into behaving that way. Until you speak to a criminal defense lawyer, you don’t know how you could possibly defend yourself.
Working With Meltzer & Bell
If you were charged with sexual battery or sexual assault, now is the time to call Meltzer & Bell for help. We have extensive experience assisting previous clients with these types of cases, and we’re known for our strong defenses and excellent service.
If you’re ready to reach out, then call (561) 557-8686 or fill out our form on our contact page. We are available 24/7, so even if you’ve just been arrested or you have a court date hanging over you, you can feel free to reach out at any time. We know how stressful things are right now, and we want you to know that we’ve got your back.
Don’t wait: Call us today to get started and defend yourself from these charges.