Florida's New Law Increases Penalties For Those Accused of Sexual Related Crimes

Florida's New Law Increases Penalties For Those Accused of Sexual Related Crimes

On April 1, 2014, Governor Rick Scott signed multiple bills into law which will in many cases increase the potential penalty for those individuals convicted of sex crimes in Florida. The following provides a summary of the amendments contained in SB 526, which goes into effect October 1, 2014.

One of the most powerful amendments signed into law, and one that law enforcement will likely rely on to initiate sex crime prosecutions is § 775.15(18), Florida Statutes. Effective October 1, 2014, law enforcement will be able to initiate prosecutions for any alleged offense committed under § 800.04(4) (Lewd & Lascivious Battery) and § 800.04(5) (Lewd & Lascivious Molestation), any time, as long as the victim was under 16 years of age at the time of the alleged offense. This is a powerful amendment for the government because many times due to the age of the alleged victim and the nature of these types of offenses, sex crimes are not reported or prosecuted until many years after they occur. This change will give law enforcement a powerful tool for late reported sex crimes. However, an important exception to this new law comes into play if the defendant is under 18 and not more than 4 years older than the alleged victim.

Another key amendment contained in SB 526 relates to those individuals classified as Dangerous Sexual Felony Offenders. Effective October 1, 2014, if a person who qualifies as a Dangerous Sexual Felony Offender, commits a new offense on or after October 1, 2014, such person must be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of 50 years imprisonment up to, and including, life imprisonment.

Finally, the Florida legislature has also expanded the definition of voyeurism contained in § 810.14, Florida Statutes. Currently, the voyeurism statute protected those people “located in a dwelling, structure, or conveyance and such location provides a reasonable expectation of privacy.” The current definition left open much debate for those individuals accused of taking up skirt videos of women in public places, such as shopping malls. However, the legislature has attempted to close that loop hole by criminalizing observations made of “another person’s intimate areas in which the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, when the other person is located in a public or private dwelling, structure, or conveyance.” It will be interesting to see how this expanded definition will impact the prosecutions of those individuals accused of secretly recording people, especially as technology continues to develop.

The remaining amendments contained in SB 526 deal with sexual battery, lewd & lascivious battery, and lewd and lascivious molestation offenses. The amendments define criminal offenses and create enhancements for certain offenses based on the age of the defendant and the alleged victim, and potential enhancements based on the nature of the offense. SB 526 also contains various other amendments effecting Florida’s criminal code.

In addition to SB 526, the Governor also signed into law SB 522 – Effective July 1, 2014; SB 524 – Effective July 1, 2014; and SB 528 – Effective October 1, 2014. These amendments relate to collateral consequences of a conviction for a sex crime in Florida, including civil commitment issues; revised offense severity rankings which come into effect when the government scores someone charged with a felony offense in Florida; and various other matters.

– David E. Little, Esq.

– Bill Sansone, Esq.