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What Is Sexual Battery in Florida?

Under Florida law, all sex crimes are considered extremely severe. However, some sex crimes are legally classified as more serious than others. For example, sexual battery is considered much more severe than the crime of sexual assault.

Unless you have a legal background, it can be difficult to understand the precise meaning of sexual battery from reading Florida statutes. So, what is sexual battery in Florida? Here’s a detailed breakdown.

Defining Sexual Battery

What does sexual battery mean? Florida Statute § 794.011 defines “Sexual Battery” as “oral, anal, or female genital penetration by, or union with, the sexual organ of another or the anal or female genital penetration of another by any other object; however, sexual battery does not include an act done for a bona fide medical purpose.”

Essentially, in Florida, if someone uses their sex organ or an object to make unwanted sexual contact with another person, they are committing sexual battery.

As you can see, the term “sexual battery” covers a wide range of crimes, including forcedl penetration, unwanted oral or digital penetration, or touching a sleeping or unconscious person sexually without their consent.

Legal Penalties for Sexual Battery in Florida

Because all sexual battery offenses are felonies, a conviction comes with significant prison terms and often with large fines. The severity of the crime determines what level of felony the offense is, and the level of felony determines the legal penalties. In Florida, there are five degrees of felonies:

  • Capital Felonies: The most severe felonies — penalties are either life in prison (without the possibility of parole) or death;
  • Life Felonies: The second most severe — prison terms can be up to life in prison, and fines can be up to $15,000;
  • First-Degree Felonies: The third most severe — prison terms can be up to 30 years, and fines can be up to $10,000;
  • Second-Degree Felonies: The fourth most severe — prison terms can be up to 15 years, and fines can be up to $10,000, and
  • Third-Degree Felonies: The least severe — prison terms can be up to 5 years, and fines can be up to $5,000.

Different types of sexual battery carry different penalties:

  • Where the perpetrator is 18 or older, and the victim is under 12 years old, the crime is a capital felony;
  • Where the victim is between the ages of 12 and 18, the crime is punishable by life;
  • If the crime of sexual battery occurs with aggravating factors, such as threatening the victim with violence, the charge is a first-degree felony, and
  • If the crime of sexual battery occurs with no aggravating factors, the charge is a second-degree felony.

“Aggravating circumstances” are circumstances that make the crime more severe. Drugging a victim or coercing them with threats of violence are examples of aggravating factors.

The exact penalty for sexual battery in Florida also depends on the defendant’s criminal record. For example, with all other circumstances being equal, a defendant who has already been convicted of sexual battery would likely receive a harsher sentence than a defendant with no criminal history.

The above penalties aren’t the only ones handed down to those convicted of sexual battery. Regardless of the degree of felony, anyone who is convicted of sexual battery in Florida must register as a sex offender. They must stay registered for life, but some people may be able to petition for their removal.

Someone who is classified as a sex offender may petition to remove their name from the list of registered sex offenders after 25 years. However, someone who is classified as a sexual predator may not. In Florida, a sexual predator is someone who either (1) has a first-degree felony conviction for a sex crime or (2) has two or more second-degree felony sex crime convictions in a 10-year period.

Sexual Battery vs. Sexual Assault

Many people use the terms “sexual battery” and “sexual assault” interchangeably. In some states, these two terms refer to the same crime. But in Florida, sexual battery and sexual assault are different (but related) crimes.

What is sexual battery in Florida? As you saw above, sexual battery (more commonly known as rape) is a specific type of sexual assault. However, sexual assault is a broader term that encompasses many types of unwanted sexual contact.

In Florida, sexual assault includes many different actions, but here are some of the most common examples:

  • Attempted rape;
  • Fondling or unwanted sexual touching or
  • Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator's body.

Notably, in Florida, a person who attempts to commit sexual assault—even if unsuccessful—may still be charged with sexual assault.

What Is Aggravated Sexual Battery?

Nervous person being followed by a shadowed figure in an alleyway

Aggravated sexual battery is a more severe form of sexual battery, which means that someone commits the crime of sexual battery when one or more aggravating circumstances are present. Here are the seven main aggravating factors in Florida:

  • The perpetrator is a law enforcement officer, correctional officer, or anyone else in a position of authority or control (or who the victim reasonably believed was in a position of authority or control).
  • The victim is physically helpless to resist (under Florida law, this means that the person is unconscious, asleep, or otherwise unable to communicate that they are unwilling).
  • The victim is coerced by threats of significant violence and reasonably believes the perpetrator would follow through with the threat.
  • The victim is coerced by threats of retaliation against them or someone else.
  • The perpetrator takes advantage of the victim because of a known mental defect.
  • The victim is drugged without consent, so they are either mentally or physically incapacitated.
  • The victim is physically incapacitated.

In addition to these aggravating factors, there are three types of enhanced sexual battery charges:

  • Sexual Battery With a Deadly Weapon: A person commits the crime of sexual battery by using or threatening to use a deadly weapon.
  • Sexual Battery Likely to Cause Serious Physical Injury: A person commits the crime of sexual battery by using force that would likely cause severe physical injury to the victim.
  • Sexual Battery on a Child Under 12: A person has sexual contact with a child under the age of 12, even if the child says they consent.

Just as aggravated sexual battery comes with harsher sentences than sexual battery with no aggravating factors, these enhanced forms of sexual battery charges result in more severe penalties.

Unraveling Capital Sexual Battery in Florida

What is capital sexual battery? Lots of people believe that murder is the only capital crime. However, in Florida, sexual battery can be a capital crime under very select circumstances:

  • Someone age 18 or older commits sexual battery on a child under 12 or
  • Someone age 18 or older attempts to commit sexual battery on a child under 12 and injures the child’s sexual organs in the process.

If someone is convicted of capital sexual battery (or any other capital felony, for that matter), there are two sentencing options: death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Common Defenses Against Sexual Battery Charges

If you’re facing charges of sexual battery, you need an attorney who will pay close attention to the facts of your case and fight to get you acquitted. In most cases, your attorney will work with you to develop an individualized defense strategy. However, many of these defense strategies fall into the same general categories:

Mistaken Identity

The justice system is far from flawless. Sometimes, the victim of the assault (or even law enforcement officers) might misidentify the defendant as the actual perpetrator. If this happens, your legal team will work to show the court that this is an issue of mistaken identity.

Alibi

If you have an alibi that’s easy to confirm, this is one of the best defense strategies. For instance, if your coworkers and surveillance footage show you were at work (and not with the victim) when the assault allegedly happened, the state will have a difficult time convincing the jury you’re guilty.

Civil Rights Violations

Fortunately, Florida has laws protecting the rights of those accused of a crime. Some law enforcement officers accidentally or deliberately violate those rights. If law enforcement officers violated your rights in the course of gathering evidence (like if they found something incriminating while conducting an illegal search), your attorney might argue the evidence should be suppressed.

Consent

In some cases, your attorney may argue that the alleged sexual act occurred with the accuser’s consent (and that the accuser was in a physical and mental state where they could give consent). Of course, this defense is only effective if the accuser is old enough to give valid consent.

Temporary or Permanent Insanity

In order to be held criminally responsible, you must have known your actions were wrong at the time the crime was committed. If you undergo a court-approved mental evaluation and the examiner believes you meet the legal criteria for insanity (or that you did at the time of the crime), your attorney may be able to use this defense.

However, it’s important to note that while you hear about the “insanity defense” fairly often, it is extremely difficult to succeed with this defense unless it is proven that you have a severe mental illness or mental infirmity.

False Accusations

Person being falsely accused by someone who has a Pinnochio nose

Your legal team might choose to assert that the victim’s accusations are false. But it isn’t enough to just say the accuser is lying — to make this a viable defense, your attorneys need to offer believable reasons the accuser may be lying.

For instance, if the accuser has a reason to seek revenge against you, your attorneys may argue that they made false accusations as a way to get that revenge. Likewise, your legal team might argue that the accuser felt shame, guilt, or regret over consensual sexual activity, so they decided to lie and say it was a sexual assault.

Victim Credibility

Many sexual battery cases come down to the accuser’s word against yours. And if your attorney can show the jury that the accuser is unreliable or untrustworthy, jurors just might see reasonable doubt.

There are several different ways your attorney might challenge the accuser’s credibility. One of these is to point out inconsistent or conflicting statements the accuser has made. Another is to point out that some of the claims made by the accuser actually contradict other evidence (surveillance footage, medical records, etc.).

If the accuser has a documented history of perjury or lying during an investigation, your legal team might also use that as evidence.

Remember that regardless of the defense used, you and your legal team don’t need to prove you’re innocent. You must introduce enough reasonable doubt that the state can’t conclusively prove you’re the perpetrator.

Seeking Legal Advice for Sexual Battery Cases in Florida

Sexual battery is one of Florida’s most serious crimes. If you’ve been charged with it, it’s easy to feel like there’s no hope.

However, having an experienced legal team by your side greatly increases your chances of a favorable outcome. The Denson Firm has extensive experience defending those accused of sexual battery, and we’re ready to fight for you.

If you’re facing charges of sexual battery, a skilled sex crimes attorney is essential. Contact us today or set up a free phone consultation to see how we can assist you.

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