Statutory Rape: Not Knowing Is No Defense

By: James Davis

Statutory rape laws in Florida are strict.  You may end up with a serious criminal record even when you had no intention of committing any crime.  Under state law, it is unlawful to have sexual intercourse with anyone under 18 years old.  It does not matter if the sex was consensual or nonconsensual–it is still a crime.  Considering the consequences, if you are not 100% sure of a potential partner’s age, then it is best to shy away from the encounter.

Intent is Irrelevant
There are no accidents when it comes to statutory rape. The only element that the prosecutor must prove is that the sexual act occurred; the defendant’s knowledge of the victim’s age is not relevant. Florida law specifically addresses the issue, stating that “ignorance of the age [of the victim] is no defense.” The law goes even further, and states that, even when the minor intentionally misleads a defendant into thinking she is over the age of consent, there is still no defense.  This is an incredibly strict rule.

Think about this: Even if you ask a partner for a driver’s license and they show you one indicating that they are of legal age, you can be convicted if that was a fake ID.

There have been several instances of defendants making good-faith efforts to obtain the truthful age of their partner, only to find out that she was under age.  It is worth taking extreme caution in these sorts of situations, because even a first offense statutory rape can result in up to fifteen years in prison. Subsequent offenses start at a maximum of thirty years in prison.

Another thing that trips people up about statutory rape is that it doesn’t require force. The way the law is written, minors under the age of 18 cannot consent to sexual intercourse with an adult (there are slight differences for minors aged 16 and 17). So even if a minor initiates the encounter, a statutory rape charge can still arise. And keep in mind, a criminal charge doesn’t even need to be initiated by the minor. Say the minor tells a parent, the parent can take that information to the police or prosecutors and they will initiate a charge. Once someone reports statutory rape to the police or prosecutor, the state can then generally require the minor to come testify against the defendant.

The bottom line: precaution should be taken when selecting sexual partners. Always find out for sure that the people you have sex with are above the legal age of consent.

If you have been charged with statutory rape, regardless of the underlying circumstances, you will need a competent, zealous criminal defense attorney to ensure that you are well represented. The deck is often stacked against criminal defendants, and one of the only things you can control is the lawyer you hire to represent you. Make sure the lawyer you select has experience and cares about the well-being of his clients. James Davis is an experienced criminal defense attorney who will fight tirelessly for you. Contact Attorney James Davis today.

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