Jacksonville Sex Crime Defense Attorney
While any criminal charge can have serious consequences, Florida sex offense charges may carry special risks. In addition to the criminal penalties, the stigma associated with a sex crime conviction, and potential limitations on employment opportunities, Florida sex offender registration requirements place significant burdens on many people convicted of sex crimes in Florida.
Worse, a prosecutor who offers you a plea bargain may gloss over these additional consequences, since they aren’t part of the sentence. It’s never a good idea to go at it alone when you’re facing criminal charges, and a sex crime conviction may have more hidden costs than any other type of criminal conviction.
What is a Florida Sex Crime?
Many different crimes are classified as sex offenses in Florida. These include:
- Sexual Battery
- Indecent Exposure
- Obscene Communication/Telephone Call
- Child Pornography
- Statutory Rape
- Child Molestation
- Unnatural and Lascivious Act
- Sexual Misconduct
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) breaks out sex crimes into forcible sex offenses and non-forcible sex offenses. In one recent year, there were more than 11,000 reported forcible sex crimes in Florida. These included more than 8,100 reports of rape by force, more than 300 reported attempted rapes and nearly 3,500 allegations of forcible fondling. 542 of those rapes and 246 fondling incidents were reported in Duval County. While there are many more sex crimes classified as “non-forcible,” these account for far fewer reported crimes in Florida.
Often, people who have been accused of a crime like rape make the mistake of talking too much. It’s hard not to speak up and defend yourself, especially if you feel you’ve been wrongly accused. But, clearing things up by explaining your side of the story is rarely a successful criminal defense strategy, and what you say may come back to haunt you. Your words may be taken out of context and used against you, or you may make critical mistakes because you don’t fully understand the law. It’s best to consult an experienced sex offense attorney before you say anything–even when the officer is trying to convince you that he understands and just wants to help you out of this mess.
Consequences of a Sex Offense Conviction
The possible sentence associated with a Florida sex crime conviction varies significantly. A misdemeanor sex crime carries a maximum sentence of no more than one year in jail. For example, exposure of sexual organs in public (or, under some circumstances, on private property) is a first-degree misdemeanor.
At the other end of the spectrum, some sex crimes are life felonies or capital felonies. And, many variables may impact the classification of a crime. For example, sexual battery is a felony in the second degree if committed by one competent adult against another without the use of force likely to cause serious injury. That means a maximum possible sentence of 15 years in prison.
However, the crime may be charged as a first-degree felony under a variety of circumstances, including:
- If the victim was physically helpless
- If the accused coerced the victim through a credible threat of use of force or violence
- If the accused drugged or otherwise caused impairment of the victim without the victim’s knowledge or consent
- If the victim is physically incapacitated
- If the victim is mentally defective and the accused knows or should know of the impairment
- If the accused is a law enforcement officer or other person with similar authority and control over the victim
The addition of one of those factors increases the maximum possible penalty to 30 years. Some sex crime charges are also upgraded if the defendant has a prior related conviction.
As you can see, Florida sex crime charges can be as complicated as they are serious. It’s the prosecution’s responsibility to prove each element, including those that upgrade the charge to a more serious felony. And, they must prove each beyond a reasonable doubt. But, holding the prosecution to that burden requires both substantive knowledge of the relevant criminal statutes and a thorough understanding of the technical and procedural requirements of the Florida criminal justice system. It also requires an attorney who isn’t just there to cut a deal, and is prepared to take your case to the jury if that’s in your best interests.
Attorney Matthew Lufrano is a Board Certified Expert in Criminal Trial Law. He’s practiced exclusively in the area of criminal defense for the past 12 years, and has tried dozens of criminal cases. He understands how important it is for someone facing sex crime charges in the Jacksonville area to have accurate, in-depth information about their rights and options.
That’s why he offers free consultations to people charged with Florida sex offenses and other crimes. You can schedule yours right now by calling 904-513-3905 or filling out our contact form.
The Florida Sex Offender Registry
Most people think of the Florida sex offender registry as a place to go on the Internet to find out whether there are dangerous predators in your neighborhood. In fact, the sex offender registry is much broader than many people realize. And, the stigma of having your name, photograph and other information posted online for the world to see is just one of the burdens that accompany sex offender registration.
In the state of Florida, there are at least 23 crimes that trigger mandatory sex offender registration and related obligations. Those who plead guilty to or are convicted of one of these offenses are required to register for life. Options for petitioning for removal from the registry are extremely limited. In Duval County alone, there are nearly 2,000 sex offenders and sexual predators–about one in every 500 people in the county.
Sex offenders are required to complete a form with the local Sheriff’s department every three or six months, depending on the nature of the conviction and their classification. While other Florida residents have 30 days to update information with the DMV after a move, sex offenders subject to registry requirements have just 48 hours to change the address on their licenses. And, they must report in advance any plans to travel outside the state or the country. But, the day-to-day burdens may be even more significant.
Failure to strictly comply with these requirements can lead to additional criminal charges. For example, failure to register as required is a crime, typically charged as a third-degree felony with a possible sentence of up to five years in prison.
Residency Restrictions for Florida Sex Offenders
Florida law prohibits people convicted of a variety of sex crimes from residing within 1,000 feet of a school, child care center, park or playground. Like the registration requirement, this restriction may be enforced through new criminal charges. Depending on the underlying charge, the crime may be a misdemeanor or a felony.
Local restrictions may be of greater concern. For example, the city of Jacksonville prohibits sexual predators from living within 2,500 feet of “any school, public library, daycare center, park, playground, or other places where children regularly congregate.” 2,500 feet is nearly half a mile, which can make finding appropriate housing extremely difficult. Restrictions like these, combined with a dense population, may be the reason an in-depth study a few years ago found that Duval County had the highest rate of homeless sex offenders in the state of Florida.
In short, the restrictions and requirements that can follow a person convicted of a sex offense for life are often difficult. But, failure to comply even in a technical way may result in additional criminal charges and a return to jail. Even those who avoid that trap may face limitations that interfere with employment opportunities, family activities and other aspects of day-to-day life.
Talk to an Experienced Jacksonville Sex Crimes Attorney
As you can see, there’s a lot at risk when you’re facing Florida sex crime charges. The direct consequences in terms of jail time, fines, supervision and restrictions can be severe. And, the social and financial costs can be high, as well.
If you’ve been accused of a sex crime in or around Jacksonville, your next step should be to talk with a sex crime defense lawyer right away. A local attorney experienced in defending people accused of sex offenses may be able to:
- Find weaknesses in the state’s case and use them to negotiate for a reduction in charges or other beneficial resolution
- Suppress evidence against you, weakening the state’s case
- Call evidence and witness testimony into question, creating reasonable doubt for the jury
A seasoned criminal defense attorney can also explain the consequences of a particular conviction in greater detail and assess the strength of the case against you, so you can make informed decisions about whether to accept a plea agreement or fight the charges against you at trial.
You can schedule a free consultation with attorney Matthew Lufrano right now. Just dial 904-513-3905 or fill out the contact form on this site.