It is a terrible and stressful ordeal to be accused of fondling or molesting a child. When such an allegation is made, even close friends and family will often turn their backs on someone right when the accused needs their support more than ever. Clients will often tell us that they feel like they have already been convicted before they have even had their day in court. This can lead to feeling that your situation is hopeless.
Please keep one thing in mind. At this point, you have only been accused. You have not been convicted of anything. Even though you may still be in a state of shock, it is vital at this early stage of the case that you have a team on your side who can start working on your behalf. This team needs to have experience defending Lewd or Lascivious cases in Fort Walton Beach. The team you choose right now could mean the difference between a Not Guilty verdict and decades in prison.
My name is Tim Flaherty. I’ve been a Fort Walton Beach child molestation defense attorney since 2001. My partner’s name is Brandy Merrifield. She has worked with me since 2007. At Flaherty & Merrifield, we defend our clients with one motto:
We don’t judge. We defend.
If someone has accused you of Lewd or Lascivious Behavior in Fort Walton Beach, call Flaherty & Merrifield at (850) 243-6097 for a free, confidential case review.
Levels of Lewd or Lascivious Crimes in Fort Walton Beach
Under Florida law, Lewd or Lascivious crimes are found in Florida Statute 800.04. We have experience defending the following:
- Lewd or Lascivious Molestation
- Lewd or Lascivious Battery (statutory rape)
- Lewd or Lascivious Conduct
- Lewd or Lascivious Exhibition
Lewd or Lascivious Molestation is defined under Florida Statute 800.04(5) as:
“intentional touching, in a lewd or lascivious manner, of the breasts, genitals, genital area, or buttocks, or the clothing covering them, of a person less than 16 years old.”
What is the possible sentence for L & L Molestation?
The age of the victim and the defendant plays a role in determining the maximum sentence.
If the victim is 12 years old or older, but less than 16 years old, and the defendant is at least 18 years old, L & L Molestation has a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
In the case of a victim younger than 12 years old, L & L Molestation has a maximum sentence of LIFE in prison, with a minimum mandatory sentence of 25 years.
Florida Statute 800.04(4) defines Lewd or Lascivious Battery as “engaging in sexual activity with a person 12 years of age or older but less than 16 years of age; or encourages, forces, or entices any person less than 16 years of age to engage in any act involving sexual activity.”
Florida Statute 800.04(1)(a) defines sexual activity as: “vaginal, anal, or oral penetration by the sexual organ of someone else, or the vaginal or anal penetration of someone else with an object.”
What is the possible sentence for L & L Battery in Fort Walton Beach?
L & L Battery has a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
Under Florida sentencing guidelines, Lewd or Lascivious Battery carries a minimum sentence of 34.5 months in prison unless the Judge finds a valid basis for Downward Departure. If the State adds additional points for sexual contact (40 points), the minimum sentence if 64.5 months in prison. If the State adds points for sexual penetration (80 points), the minimum sentence is 94.5 months in prison.
L & L Conduct makes it a crime to touch a child in a lewd or sexually suggestive manner. This applies even for touches on non-sexual parts of the body.
L & L Conduct has a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
Lewd or Lascivious Exhibition is defined in Fla. Stat. 800.04(7) as: “a person who intentionally masturbates, exposes the genitals in a lewd or lascivious manner; or intentionally commits any other sexual act that does not involve actual physical or sexual contact with the victim, including but not limited to sadomasochistic abuse, bestiality, or the simulation of any act involving sexual activity, in the presence of a victim who is less than 16 years of age, commits lewd or lascivious exhibition.”
The two most common scenarios where we see this charge are (1) Someone is accused of masturbating in front of kids, or (2) Someone is accused of having sex with another person in front of kids.
Lewd or Lascivious Exhibition has a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
If I am being accused of Lewd or Lascivious in Fort Walton Beach, how will you defend me?
Under Florida law, it does not matter if the child gave consent to the sexual activity. It also does not matter if the child lied about their age. The law places the burden on the adult to know how old the person is before having sex with them.
Here at Flaherty & Merrifield, we have extensive experience defending clients who have been accused of Lewd or Lascivious Behavior in Fort Walton Beach. Because of that experience, we are able to build a defense that is unique to the facts of your case. However, there are some issues that apply in almost every case. Here are a few:
- Do not agree to talk to the police without talking to a lawyer first. Without a doubt, this is the best piece of advice we can give you. Whether you did it or not is irrelevant. The cops think you are guilty and they will use any means necessary to get you to incriminate yourself. Trust us on this. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you will “talk your way out of this.” If the police contact you, pick up the phone and call us right away at (850) 243-6097. If you have already given a statement to the police, they may come back to you for a second statement. They are doing this to get you to say something different from the first statement so that they can accuse you of lying. Do not fall into this trap.
- Does the victim have a motive to lie, or make up this allegation? We defended a client a few years ago who was being accused of molesting his 15 year old sister-in-law. After an extensive background investigation that included several months of witness interviews, depositions, and talking directly to the victim, we were able to show that she had developed a crush on our client. We found multiple text messages where she had expressed those feelings toward our client. When her mother saw the text messages, she changed her tune, and decided to claim that our client had fondled her during a family reunion on Okaloosa Island. The accusation alone was enough to make our client lose this job and his wife. The case finally went to trial. We were up against a specialized prosecutor from the Children’s Advocacy Center who was very intent on convicting our client and sending him to prison for 15 years. After a very hard-fought trial, the jury found our client Not Guilty.
If we had not done the months and months of pretrial work that we did on this case, there is no doubt in my mind that our client would still be sitting in prison today.
Can we guarantee the same result in your case? No we can’t. But we can guarantee the same level of work, expertise, and dedication.
- Is there any physical evidence linking our client to the crime? If the case didn’t come to light until much later, there will usually not be any physical evidence. Then, the State is forced to prosecute the case as a he-said, she-said. This highlights the earlier point about not talking to the police. It is our job to make it as difficult as possible for the State to prove their case. Without any physical evidence, it is easier for us to establish reasonable doubt.
If there was physical evidence collected that incriminates you, we will be prepared to deal with that as well. We have crime scene analysts, DNA experts, and private investigators that we can use to attack or discredit any incriminating physical evidence.
The bottom line is that we will be prepared to defend you every step of the way.
Have You Been Arrested For a Sex Crime in Florida?
If you've been arrested for a sex crime in Fort Walton Beach, call Flaherty & Merrifield at (850) 243-6097 for a free, confidential case review.