The National Center for Victims of Crime estimates that one in five girls and one in 20 boys in the United States will be the victim of child sexual abuse, such as child molestation. Exact figures are hard to determine, as definitions of sex abuse and molestation vary by state and many victims do not report the crimes.
The state of Florida views the crime of child molestation quite seriously. The penalties of conviction can include as much as 40 years or life imprisonment. The severity of the punishment will largely depend on the age of the victim and the perpetrator at the time of the alleged abuse.
What the State of Florida Defines as Acts of Molestation on a Child
Florida laws define certain acts to be forms of “lewd” or “lascivious” molestation. It is considered an act of molestation for any person to intentionally touch – in a lewd, or “crude sexual manner” – the following areas on a child who is less than 16 years old:
- genitals/genital area;
- buttocks; or
- the clothing covering these areas.
A perpetrator who entices, encourages, or forces a child who is younger than 16 years old to touch any of those abovementioned areas on the perpetrator himself or herself also has committed an act of lewd molestation.
How Age Impacts the Nature of the Charges and Penalties
The age of the alleged perpetrator and child victim will impact the severity of the charges and possible penalties.
Below is a breakdown of the ages and related charges:
- Defendant is 18 years or older and victim is younger than 12 years – Life felony, which can include a sentence of up to 40 years or life imprisonment;
- Defendant is less than 18 years and victim is younger than 12 years OR defendant is 18 years or older and victim is 12 to 16 years – Second-degree felony, which can include a sentence of up to 15 years imprisonment; and
- Defendant is less than 18 years and victim is 12 to 16 years – Third-degree felony, which can include a sentence of up to five years imprisonment.
Not knowing the victim’s age is not considered to be a valid defense, nor is having the victim’s consent to perform such acts.
Charges and/or a conviction of child molestation can have a lifetime impact for the accused. For help defending against such charges, call 877-663-5110.