South Florida Man Charged with Sex Crime After Lying about Age to Minor

November 22, 2023 Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes

There are laws in place to prevent adults from engaging in sexual activities with minors. When a person over the age of 18 has sexual relations with a minor, they can be charged with a criminal offense. The exact penalties in Florida depend on the circumstances of the case.

For instance, lewd or lascivious exhibition is a charge for a person who commits a sexual act not involving the physical touch of another person. Whereas lewd or lascivious battery is a charge for a person who engages or forces a minor to engage in sexual activity.

It is important to be familiar with the varying types of lewd and lascivious offenses and their resulting penalties. This page will provide insight on the relative Florida laws, as well as providing a recent example case from South Florida, where a defendant lied about his age to have sexual intercourse with a minor.

Case Details

Miami-Dade County Police arrested a man who allegedly lied about his age to a teenage tourist to make sexual advances on her.

According to the report, police officers found Ritchie Gonzalez and a 14-year-old girl inside Gonzalez’s vehicle near Albert Pallot Park. The young girl was on vacation with her family and staying at Fontainebleau Miami Beach.

The minor told police that Gonzalez approached her at the hotel pool, claiming he was only 17-years-old. The two exchanged information via Snapchat and later went on a date together. The victim admitted to police that the two engaged in consensual unprotected sex inside the vehicle.

Gonzalez was arrested and charged with lascivious battery on a child.

Lewd & Lascivious Battery

Florida Statutes Section 800.04 provides the laws and penalties for the various lewd or lascivious offenses. In Florida, a person can face charges for lewd or lascivious exhibition, lewd or lascivious conduct, lewd or lascivious molestation, or lewd or lascivious battery.

A person can be charged with lewd or lascivious battery if:

  • The individual engages in sexual activity with a person between the age of 12 and 16-years-old; or
  • The individual encourages, forces, or entices a person younger than 16 to engage in sadomasochistic abuse, sexual bestiality, prostitution, or any other act involving sexual activity.

Lewd or lascivious battery is considered a felony offense. For a person with no prior convictions, it is considered a second-degree felony. A conviction for a second-degree felony can carry the following penalties:

  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Up to 15 years in prison

If the defendant is 18 or older and was previously convicted of another sex crime against a minor, they can be charged with a first-degree felony. A conviction for a first-degree felony can carry the following penalties:

  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Up to 30 years in prison

Important: There are several defenses that are not applicable for lewd and lascivious criminal cases. Prohibited defenses include the following:

  • Victim’s lack of chastity or sexual history;
  • Victim’s consent to sexual activity;
  • Victim’s misrepresentation of their age;
  • Defendant’s ignorance to victim’s age; or
  • Defendant’s bone fide belief of the victim’s age.

Importance of Age / Consent

It is important to establish the State’s age of consent when it comes to lewd or lascivious offenses. The age of consent in Florida is 16 when the other party is under the age of 24—meaning 23 or younger. If one person is 24 or older, then the age of consent is 18. Florida law declares that a minor who is younger than 16 cannot consent to sexual activity with a person 18 or older in any context.

Under the State’s statutory rape law it is illegal for any person 24-years-old or older to engage in sexual activity with a minor who is 16 or 17-years-old. If the victim is younger than 16 or 17, then there are more serious repercussions.

Romeo & Juliet Law Not Applicable

In addition to the statute penalties and sentencing, a person convicted of a sex crime in Florida must register with the Florida Sex Offender Registry. This may be the worst penalty of all, as it requires a lifetime registration that publicizes your personal information.

Cases involving sexual activity between adults and minors may refer to the Romeo and Juliet law to avoid registration as a sexual offender. However, this law is very limiting and can only be applied in certain circumstances.

Florida Statutes Section 943.04354 provides an option for certain offenders to file a motion to remove the required registration through the Florida Sex Offender Registry. The only individuals eligible for using the Romeo and Juliet law include the following:

  • Victim was between the ages of 14 and 17-years-old;
  • Defendant cannot be more than four years older than the victim (to the exact day, defined as no more than 1,460 days of an age difference);
  • The victim consented to the sexual activity; and
  • The defendant has no prior criminal convictions for a sex crime.

In the example case above, the defendant would not be eligible to use the Romeo and Juliet law due to the age difference between him and the minor victim. Further, the fact that he lied to the victim about his age would most likely be used against him if he attempted to use the Romeo and Juliet defense.

Importance of Hiring an Experienced Defense Attorney

Criminal cases involving child victims will be prosecuted harshly in the state of Florida. This is why it is extremely important to consider hiring legal guidance with an experienced defense attorney. An attorney experienced in sex crimes will be able to review your case and build a defense strategy.

To avoid the fines, imprisonment, and registration as a sex offender, contact Pumphrey Law Firm to represent your case. We’ll provide you with a free case evaluation when you call (850) 681-7777 or leave us a message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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