What’s the Difference Between Child Molestation and Sexual Assault?
June 30, 2022 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes Social Share
The topic of sexual abuse on a child is extremely difficult, and complicated in the legal world. Child sexual abuse has several different definitions, and there are also various criminal charges an individual can face if they have abused a minor in a sexual way.
It is important to understand the differences when it comes to various types of sexual abuse on a child, and what types of penalties can arise with each individual sex crime. Since the topic of sexual abuse of a child is sensitive, the language and definitions matter.
One common misconception is assuming that child molestation and sexual assault on a child are the same thing. They have different meanings, despite often being used interchangeably. Child molestation is in reference to an isolated or single act of sexual assault against a child. Child molestation is commonly used to refer to young children, under the age of 12. Sexual assault is in reference to a pattern of sexual abuse to a child that happens over a period of time. In addition, sexual assault against a child can refer to any age under 18, which includes adolescents as well.
There are many cases of sexual assault that begin as child molestation, and develops further into child sexual assault once the alleged offender is persistent with the sex crimes against the minor.
The following are examples of crimes that can fall under both child molestation and sexual assault against a child:
- Fondling a child
- Touching a child’s genital area or breast area of a female
- Forcing a child to perform oral sex
- Penetration, rape, or attempted rape
- Child pornography
- Non-touching offenses, such as indecent exposure
- Exposing a child to pornography
- Masturbating in front of a child
We will cover the details as well as the potential penalties for both child molestation and sexual assault against a child.
Under Florida Statute Section 800.04, molestation falls under the category of lewd and lascivious acts. Synonyms for lewd and lascivious have been defined as the following:
Lewd and lascivious molestation is defined as an individual who touches the breasts, genitals, genital area, buttocks, or the clothing area of a child under the age of 16-years-old. If the accused individual forces or entices the person under 16 to touch them, it is also considered lewd and lascivious molestation. In short, if the accused person touches a minor under 16 or forces the minor to touch them in a sexual manner, they have committed the crime of lewd and lascivious molestation.
The penalties for child molestation vary on the age of both the defendant and the victim. If the defendant is 18 years or older and the victim is 12-years-old or younger, it is considered a life felony. This is punishable with up to life in prison, or not exceeding 40 years.
If the defendant is younger than 18 and commits lewd and lascivious molestation against a child who is younger than 12; or if the defendant is 18 or older and commits molestation against an individual older than 12 but younger than 16, it is considered a second-degree felony. This is punishable with up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.
If the defendant is younger than 18 and commits lewd and lascivious molestation against a child older than 12 but less than 16, it is considered a third-degree felony. This is punishable with up to a $5,000 fine and up to 5 years in prison.
Sexual assault falls under the state’s statute titled sexual battery. Under Florida Statute Section 794.011, sexual battery is considered an vaginal, oral, or anal penetration by or in union with another organ or another object without the victim’s consent. Crimes under the sexual battery statute are among the following:
- Attempted rape
- Unwanted sexual touch or fondling
- Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts on the perpetrator’s body
Penalties for sexual battery range depending on the age of both the accused person and the victim. If the defendant is over 18 and commits sexual battery against a minor under the age of 12, it is considered a capital felony. This is punishable with either a sentence of life in prison, or the death penalty.
If the defendant has committed sexual battery on a person 12-years-old or older, and in doing so uses or threatens to use deadly force of a weapon, or physical force that can inflict serious injury has committed a life felony. This is punishable with up to life in prison, or not exceeding 40 years.
If the defendant is 18 or older and commits sexual battery against a person 12 years or older but is younger than 18 years, it is considered a first-degree felony. This is punishable with up to a $10,000 fine or up to 30 years in prison.
Additional Consequences for Child Sex Crimes
In addition to expensive fines and prison sentences, there are other consequences that a defendant can face for child molestation and sexual assault against a child. The following is a list of potential penalties:
- Registering on the National Sex Offender Registry
- Banned from ever working in an unsupervised environment with children
- Prohibited from living or traveling wherever you want, as your movements will be restricted
- Limited or restricted job opportunities, as many places, will not hire someone with a conviction of a child sex crime
- Potential requirement to stay within a certain amount of feet away from children, potentially including even your own
If you have been accused of a sex crime against a child, it may seem like there is no possible defense to your case. Working with a skilled defense attorney is the best way to ensure you strategize the best defense to your case. When it comes to child sex crimes, several common defenses are prohibited from being used.
Under Florida Statute 800.04(2), the following are prohibited defenses to a lewd and lascivious molestation charge:
- Consent – Even if the defendant is sure that consent was given by the alleged victim, the defendant cannot claim the actions were justified simply because the minor gave permission to the defendant.
- Ignorance of the victim’s age – Not realizing or being ignorant of the victim’s age is not a valid defense in a sex crime against a minor or child.
- Past Experience – The victim’s past sexual experience cannot be used as a defense, even if the alleged victim was a minor working as a sex worker.
To read more about sex crimes in Florida, find our page here.
Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida
Getting accused of a sex crime is an extremely serious offense in the state of Florida. The repercussions are even harsher if the alleged victim was a minor or a young child. If you or a loved one have been accused of a sex crime against a child, it is imperative that you seek out the help of an experienced defense attorney. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have represented clients all across the state of Florida for various crimes. We will help you navigate through the legal processes and work to ensure your freedom. For a free consultation call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message.
Written by Karissa Key