What is the Age of Consent in Florida?

August 6, 2022 Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes

“Age is just a number!” Is a phrase that has been tossed around before, typically when a person is having sexual relations with an individual that is younger than them. Although it can come off as a joke, the reality is that violating the age of consent is illegal and can lead to criminal charges.

It is important to know what the age of consent in your state is, as well as what the consequences are if you were to violate it. Florida takes the age of consent very seriously, and getting charged with a sex crime involving a minor can lead to expensive fines, imprisonment, and in the most extreme cases even capital punishment.

History of Age of Consent

The age gap in relationships can quickly become a legal issue for police, however, the laws regarding the age of consent have only recently been implemented. The history of statutory rape is highlighted in Carolyn Cocca’s book “Jailbait: The Politics of Statutory Rape.”

In the book, Cocca explains that the earliest laws for statutory rape were created for the prevention of out-of-wedlock sex, not age. The laws were more focused on protecting young women from losing their virginity before they were married off and seen as the property of their chosen husband.

“So you could be old enough to get married and have sexual intercourse legally, but not old enough to consent to unmarried sex,” Cocca said.

Up until the late 1890s, the age of consent was extremely low in the United States. The age in Florida was only 10 years old up until then, when they pushed the age of consent up to what it currently is today—18-years-old.

“It’s around this time you start hearing the word ‘jailbait,’” Cocca said. “You know, like you could get in trouble if you’re with these girls, even if they’re willing. It’s against the law.”

Later in the 1960s and 70s, advocates rallied to create age of consent laws that were gender neutral. “They wanted to make the laws gender neutral, so any person who has sex with an underage person is guilty of statutory rape,” Cocca wrote. “They thought that would take away with the idea, that this is something males do to females.”

Modern day age of consent can still vary across different states. However, violating the age of consent can result in serious consequences.

Penalties for Age of Consent Violation

Florida’s age of consent is 18, although Florida does have a “Romeo and Juliet” statute.

The statutory rape statue is codified under Florida Statute Section 794.05, under the statute if a person who is 24 years old or older engages in sexual activity with a person 16 or 17 years of age commits a second degree felony. It is important to notice that consent of the 16 or 17 year old does not matter, it’s not an element of the crime like it is under the Sexual Battery statue. The penalty for a second-degree felony is up to $10,000 and up to 15 years in prison.

If a defendant has shared pornography from their computer or phone with an individual under the age of 18, or has been accused of a “lewd or lascivious” offense, it is also considered a second-degree felony.

If a defendant has non-consensual sexual contact with a minor, they could be charged with sexual battery. Sexual battery charges vary depending upon the age of the victim, the age of the offender, and the nature of the offense. For example, if the victim is less than 12 years old, the offender is 18 years old or older, and the victim’s sexual organs were injured during the course of the battery then the individual can be charged with sexual battery as a capital felony. However, if the victim is older than 12, if the offender is 18 years old or older, and the offense was committed without violence then the offender can be charged with sexual battery as a first degree felony.

You can read more about consent and various sex crimes and their charges here.

Ignorance isn’t a Defense

If an individual has been accused of violating the age of consent, they cannot use ignorance as a defense. This means that even if the person was not aware of the victim’s age making them a minor, they can still get charged with statutory rape. This is true even if the victim has lied to the defendant about their age.

For example, if the defendant is 25 years old and has sexual intercourse with a 17-year-old, they can be charged with statutory rape. Even if the 17-year-old claimed to be 18 or older, the defendant can still face criminal charges.

The one defense that can sometimes be used in a case involving age of consent is Florida’s “Romeo and Juliet” law, which you can read about here.

Famous Age of Consent Cases

Even celebrities have had criminal cases due to age of consent violations. Actor Kevin Spacey was accused in 2017 for making sexual advances and attempting to sexually assault fellow actor Anthony Rapp. Spacey was 26 at the time, and Rapp was only 14. Spacey was formally charged in June 2022 with four counts of sexual assault against three different men.

Singer Robert “R. Kelly” was charged with child pornography and sex trafficking in February 2020. In one of his songs from 1994 Kelly sings the lyrics, “age ain’t nothing but a number, throwin’ down ain’t nothin’ but a thang.” There was a documentary published in 2019 titled “Surviving R. Kelly”  that detailed the cases in which Kelly allegedly groomed and sexually exploited underage girls.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida 

If you or a loved one has been accused of being sexually involved with a minor, it is imperative that you seek out the legal help of a Tallahassee sex crime defense attorney in your area. Getting convicted of a sex crime with an individual below the age of consent is a serious offense in Florida. You can get hit with expensive fines, spend years in prison, and end up on the sexual predator registry. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience representing clients across the state, and will stand in your corner and fight for your freedom. Call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message for a free consultation.

Written by Karissa Key

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