Tampa Sex Crime Attorney

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Tampa Sex Crime Lawyer

A sexual criminal offense carries severe criminal and social penalties. The high stigmatization of sex crimes greatly increases the personal and professional consequences of being charged and convicted. If you are facing arrest or charges for a sex crime, such as indecent exposure, prostitution, sexual crimes involving a minor, sexual battery, sexual assault, and sex trafficking, you need a dedicated Tampa sex crime attorney to defend you against these charges.

When you are charged with any crime in Tampa, FL, you have the right to legal defense. This is a right you should take advantage of, whether you are guilty or innocent of the charges against you. Sex crimes are prosecuted harshly in the state, and this can result in wrongful convictions or more severe penalties for a crime.

The prosecution often feels a significant social and moral necessity to convict those they believe have committed sex crimes. The public perception of these cases can significantly sway how they are handled, and you can benefit from hiring a legal professional who understands how to defend these cases and work against these perceptions.

You need a defense attorney to uphold your rights against sex crime charges. Even if you are innocent, the criminal court can still find you guilty. You will not want to take that chance. Sex crime convictions can have significant consequences on your immediate future and for the rest of your life. You may have to register as a sex offender for several years or even for life, in addition to other criminal and collateral consequences.

It can be terrifying to face charges for a sex crime. The impact that a conviction can have on your life is overwhelming, and it is important to have a legal professional in your corner. This is your greatest chance to dismiss or lower the severity of your charges.

Paul Figueroa Law: Dependable Legal Defense for Sex Crimes

At Paul Figueroa Law, our team provides every client with diligent and compassionate legal representation. We know that sex crime charges can be terrifying and shameful, and we want to ensure that you feel supported with detailed and clear legal advice. We work to understand your unique circumstances so that we can better provide an effective defense.

Paul Figueroa has worked in criminal defense and litigation for more than 13 years. He vigorously defends the rights of those in his community. His extensive trial experience in complex criminal cases allows him to build strong defenses for all his clients.

Even in dire circumstances, there may be options for plea deals or lesser charges. This could limit the impact of criminal penalties on your life and future. Depending on the facts of your case, our experienced team could work to have some of the charges against you dismissed. When you are facing sex crime charges, you need a dedicated and experienced legal team on your side that will treat you with respect and compassion.

What Is a Sex Crime in Tampa?

Sex crimes include several offenses involving sexual conduct that is public, induced by force or coercion, involving a minor, or otherwise illegal. Some of these crimes are misdemeanors, but many are felonies. Certain sex crimes can also be aggravated and charged as violent crimes in Tampa, which results in more significant penalties. Whether the crime is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, a conviction results in a criminal record and the potential for sex offender registration.

Sex crimes in Florida include:

Lewd Acts and Indecent Exposure

Indecent exposure is the exposure of any sexual organs in a public place. This is charged as a first-degree misdemeanor. Lewd conduct and lewd and lascivious acts are second-degree misdemeanors that include crude, sexually charged, or indecent behavior.

Display or Sale of Obscene Matter to Minors

Retail display or distribution of pornography to minors is illegal, and laws against it exist to protect children from exposure to obscene material and prevent exploitation. Showing obscene content to a minor is charged as a third-degree felony. Obscene matter is defined as content that shows sexual conduct in an offensive way, which appeals to prurient interests and has no artistic, political, literary, or scientific value.

Internet Sex Crimes

There are several internet and computer sex crimes, such as sexting, exploitation or solicitation of a minor online, distribution of child pornography, and cyberstalking. Frequently, these crimes are discovered through law enforcement sting operations.

Prostitution and Solicitation

Prostitution is the act of giving or receiving sexual acts for financial gain. The act of prostitution is illegal, and so is the solicitation of prostitution. It is also illegal to compel or force another into prostitution. Pimping and the creation of prostitution rings are also criminalized. These crimes can result in days in jail or years in prison, depending on the surrounding factors.

Failure to Register as a Sex Offender

It is a felony not to register as a sex offender or a sexual predator, and it is also a federal crime. If an individual fails to register or update their information knowingly, they can face years in prison.

Sex Crimes Involving Minors

This includes child exploitation, indecency with a child, child molestation, and statutory rape. Statutory rape in Florida is the crime of sexual acts or activity with a child who is 16 or 17 when the offender is 24 years of age or older. This is a second-degree felony. Any sexual action with a minor under the age of 18, which is the state’s age of consent, is a crime.

Possession of Child Pornography

This is the crime of knowingly owning, distributing, or using the image of a minor under the age of 18 for sexual performance. Promoting or using a child for a performance is also illegal.

Human Trafficking and Sex Trafficking

Human trafficking is used for several purposes, and it is a sex crime when done for the purpose of prostitution, pornography, sexual entertainment, or other activity related to sexual actions. Sex trafficking crimes include trafficking involving both adults and minors. If the person committing the crime of sex trafficking is the legal guardian or supervisor of the victim of the crime, this is charged as a life felony.

Sexual Battery and Rape

Sexual battery includes the crimes of sexual assault, rape, and statutory rape. These crimes include any sexual activity without free, intelligent, and voluntary consent. A minor under the age of 18 cannot give this consent.

Consent through influence or coercion is not considered consent, and neither is the refusal to fight back. The penalties for these crimes depend on the age of the victim and the offender, prior offenses, the use of threats or violence, and whether the offender held a position of authority.

Stalking and Harassment

Stalking and harassment are the crimes of willingly, repeatedly, and maliciously pursuing, bothering, or cyberstalking another individual. This is a first-degree misdemeanor. Stalking and harassment can also be involved in a sexual harassment case.

How Does a Criminal Defense Attorney Help Me?

No matter what sex crime you are charged with, you need a qualified Tampa criminal defense attorney who has experience and success in defending against sex crimes, including the crime you are being accused of. A skilled and dedicated criminal defense attorney could greatly improve the outcome of your criminal case. Working with an attorney could mean the most beneficial outcome, such as fewer penalties, a lesser charge, a plea deal, or even the dismissal of the charges.

There are several things an attorney can do for you, including:

  • Advocate for Your Rights: A defense attorney can protect your rights throughout the criminal trial process, ensure that the prosecution is behaving fairly, and also determine if your rights were violated during the arrest process.If your rights were not read to you, if improper procedures were followed when gathering evidence, or if there was no probable cause to search your home or vehicle, this evidence or the information gathered at the arrest could be dismissed. This could even result in the dismissal of the charges if the evidence is essential to the case.
  • Understanding Legal Deadlines and Requirements: A criminal defense lawyer has a thorough knowledge and understanding of the criminal trial process and what is required of you throughout. This can help you navigate motions, negotiations, and future appeals.Your attorney can give you the information you need to understand your position and know the likely outcome of your case. If your case proceeds to trial, your attorney can prepare you for the process and the potential of testifying.
  • Investigate and Gather Evidence: Your attorney can review your arrest, evaluate the incident of which you are being accused, and investigate it using their firm’s resources. This can be useful to introduce doubt in the prosecution’s evidence or to build your defense against the prosecution’s case.An attorney can also use their firm’s resources for expert witnesses if relevant to your case. An investigation also includes interviewing witnesses and cross-examining prosecution witnesses. The experiences of you and other witnesses could be very different from the scene of the crime the prosecution asserts.
  • Craft the Ideal Defense: When you are charged with a crime, the prosecution is responsible for proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A defense attorney can create a defense by showing that the prosecution does not have sufficient evidence, but they should also have a clear defense strategy. The defense that is ideal for your case will depend on the circumstances, the evidence against you, and the ideal outcome of your case.
  • Negotiate and Litigate: An attorney can initially work on your case out of court and try to negotiate a favorable outcome. This may be through a plea deal or similar alternate sentence, but these options and their potential downsides should always be discussed with you.

An attorney could also negotiate a dismissal in certain cases. If an attorney feels it is in your interest to take the case to court, they can argue for your rights and present your defense during litigation.

When you are charged with any crime, you have the legal right to a defense attorney. When charged with a sex crime, in particular, you need a strong defense and a dedicated attorney who will be upfront with you about your charges and the likelihood of a dismissal. In this intimidating situation, you need an objective but compassionate legal professional to walk you through the criminal justice system.

What Is the Average Sentence for a Sex Offender in Tampa, Florida?

The penalties for a sex crime in Tampa rely on many factors, including the particular crime, your criminal history and history of other sex crimes, and the age of the alleged victim. Sex crimes can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies. The penalties for a misdemeanor conviction may be up to one year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines, while felonies may result in up to 30 years or life in prison. Florida also has minimum required sentencing laws for these crimes.

A misdemeanor in Tampa is either a first-degree or second-degree misdemeanor. A second-degree misdemeanor is less severe and could result in up to 60 days in prison and/or six months of probation, as well as fines of up to $500. A first-time prostitution offense is charged as a second-degree misdemeanor. A first-degree misdemeanor could be punishable by up to one year in jail and/or 12 months of probation, along with fines of up to $1,000.

Felonies also have different classifications. The penalties for felonies include:

  • Third-Degree Felony: Conviction results in as many as five years in prison and fines of up to $5,000.
  • Second-Degree Felony: Consequences could be up to 15 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
  • First-Degree Felony: This results in up to 30 years in prison and up to life in certain circumstances. It also results in potential fines of up to $10,000.
  • Life Felony: A life felony, depending on when the crime was committed, may have a maximum sentence of 30 years, 40 years, or life in prison and a maximum fine of $15,000.
  • Capital Felony: This results in life in prison or the potential for the death penalty.

A felony conviction can also result in the loss of certain rights, such as the right to vote. Violent felonies frequently result in the loss of your right to own or use firearms. Certain crimes can also affect your immigration status.

Additional criminal penalties include:

  • Mandatory classes or counseling
  • Probation
  • Loss of rights for felonies
  • Community service
  • Sex offender registration

If the crime is considered a violent crime, penalties increase. Sexual battery, aggravated stalking, and lewd and lascivious conduct are all felonies that may be considered violent felonies. The most effective way to lessen the severity of the penalties or avoid a conviction is to work with a skilled defense attorney who understands the implications of the charges you are facing.

Sexual Battery Penalties

The penalties and consequences for sex crimes change significantly based on the unique factors. For the charge of sexual battery, penalties are classified based on the age of the victim and any other aggravating factors present.

  • If sexual battery is committed by someone 18 or older against a child 12 years or younger, causing genital injury, this is charged as a capital felony. If the same crime occurs but the offender is younger than 18, the charge is a life felony that can result in life in prison.
  • When sexual battery is committed by an offender over the age of 18 to a victim between 12 and 18, and no physical harm occurs, the charge is a first-degree felony. It is a second-degree felony when the victim is over the age of 18, and it is also a second-degree felony if the offender is younger than 18.
  • Sexual battery committed with the use or the threat of a deadly weapon or actual physical harm and severe injury is charged as a life felony.
  • When sexual assault or attempted sexual assault is committed by an offender 18 or older against a child between 12 and 18 or a victim over the age of 18, this is charged as a first-degree felony. If the offender is younger than 18 and the victim is older than 12, this is also a first-degree felony.

If the crime of sexual battery is committed by multiple offenders, the charge increases. If the initial crime would have been a first-degree felony, it would become a life felony. The prosecutor must show proof with no doubt that multiple people were involved in the sexual assault or battery.

When someone who is 18 or older is in a position of authority at a school or school-affiliated organization, any sexual or romantic relations with a student are a second-degree felony. This is considered sexual assault.

Collateral Consequences of a Criminal Conviction

In addition to immediate criminal consequences and the social and personal consequences of sex offender registration, conviction of a sex crime results in a permanent criminal record. Even after a sentence has been fully served, a criminal record can impact the rest of your life in several ways. It is part of a background check, meaning it can affect many future opportunities. These include:

  • Employment: Being convicted can cause you to lose your job and have difficulty finding employment in the future. Certain forms of employment are barred to those with criminal records and sex crime convictions.
  • Housing: Having a criminal record on housing background checks could result in difficulty obtaining housing and disqualification from certain types of housing.
  • Schooling: It can be harder to be accepted into higher education with a criminal record.
  • Licensure: Some professional licenses are barred from those with criminal records.
  • Loans and Credit: A criminal record can make it more difficult to obtain student loans, lines of credit, and similar opportunities.

The loss of rights and opportunities in your life can be incredibly devastating. You could lose your ability to support yourself and your family and be unable to take on many opportunities. Even if your sentence is lessened, or you are only charged with a misdemeanor, you still retain a permanent criminal record.

Only by avoiding conviction can you avoid these life-long penalties. An attorney can help you understand the consequences of the charges you face and what you can do when you have a criminal record.

The Impact of Registration as a Sex Offender

Depending on the sex offenses you are charged with and the severity of the crime, you could face life-long registration as a sex offender or sexual predator. Like a criminal record, the collateral consequences of sex offender registration are severe.

Not all sex crime convictions result in registration, but Florida prosecutes sex crimes very harshly and aggressively. Many sex crimes, therefore, result in mandatory registration, particularly if you do not have a defense attorney protecting your rights. Pleading no contest rather than guilty to a charge may also result in mandatory registration.

When you must register as a sex offender, you have to do this yourself, providing significant identifying information to your local sheriff’s office. If you move or change your legal name, this information must be reported to the relevant office within 48 hours. Failing to register or update your information is a state and federal crime. If the judge or the specific charges determine that you register as a sexual predator, this must be reported by the sheriff’s office where you register.

Registration as a sex offender is a matter of public record. Anyone can access this information, including your name, address, and a photo of you. Under Florida state law, if you are registered as a sex offender, you must live at least 1,000 feet away from schools, parks, and daycares. Some local laws increase this distance. This can significantly limit where you are allowed to live.

In specific situations, there are ways an individual can remove themselves from the Florida sex offender registry, such as after 25 years with no convictions or under the Romeo and Juliet law.

Understanding Florida’s Sexual Predator Act

Those convicted of a sex crime must register as a sex offender. Those who are classified as a sexual predator must also register and may face additional restrictions. Florida’s Sexual Predators Act is legislation that attempts to prevent a sexual predator from engaging in additional sexual crimes and violence.

A sexual predator is someone who is convicted of felony sexual crimes against or involving minors under 12. Sexual predators are also those who are repeat offenders and those who use physical violence. The judge must designate in writing that a convicted person must register as a sexual predator.

In addition to sexual predators registering with the sheriff’s office, the office they register with must publish public notice of the registration. Some sex crimes require registration twice per year for life, while others require registration four times per year for life. Sexual predators can never remove themselves from the registry in Florida.

This registration is meant to provide for public safety. If you are convicted of a crime that requires you to register as a sexual predator, this can eliminate many opportunities for you and ostracize you from your community. An experienced attorney can help you review your options if you are charged with these serious crimes.

Potential Defenses for Sex Crimes

When you are charged with a sex crime, the prosecution believes they have the evidence to convict you. They must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Because of the public perception of those accused of sex crimes, defenses typically need to be strong to fight the legal and social views of these charges. The main types of defenses for sex crimes include:

  1. Innocent Defense: This includes offenses such as alibis, mistaken identity, or the claim that the prosecution does not have sufficient evidence. Lack of evidence could be enough to avoid a conviction, but it is often beneficial to have a stronger defense. In many cases, an innocent defense includes determining the motives, mistakes, or credibility of the accusing individual.
  2. Affirmative Defense: An affirmative defense states that the crime happened. This includes defenses like self-defense, defense of others, and insanity. For sex crimes, applicable affirmative defenses tend to be a lack of intent or consent to the actions. This can be difficult to prove effectively.
  3. Rights Violation: If your civil rights were violated during your arrest or during search and seizure, the case or evidence against you could be dismissed. An effective attorney will know how to navigate dismissal before charges are even filed.

For cases of statutory rape and crimes against those under the age of 18, lack of knowledge about the individual’s age is not an effective defense under state law. Believing the victim to be older or believing a misrepresentation of their age, even by the victim’s own statement, is also not a valid defense. Each criminal defense case will require a unique defense based on its unique circumstances.

You Need an Experienced Tampa Defense Lawyer Fighting for You

At Paul Figueroa Law, our team can work aggressively to defend you against sexual criminal charges. We understand how overwhelming it can be to feel that the criminal justice system is against you, and we aim to provide you with the support you need. These crimes can be incredibly damaging to your reputation, your life, your family, and your future. Contact us today to see how we can help.

Practice Areas

Criminal Defense
Personal Injury