If you are prosecuted for Rape or Sexual Battery in Fort Walton Beach, there are only three options for how the case will likely be resolved: The case will be dismissed, the case will go trial, or you will plead guilty and go to prison for a very long time. Since that last option is really not an option for most people, it is very important that you realize right away that you are in for the fight of your life if you want to stay out of prison.
When faced with these options, it should be clear that your choice of defense counsel becomes the most important decision you may ever make.
If you have been accused of Sexual Battery in Fort Walton Beach, you need a local criminal defense team with extensive trial experience and a track record of success in defending sexual battery cases. You need attorneys who won’t shy away from a fight.
My name is Tim Flaherty. I’ve been a Fort Walton Beach sexual battery lawyer practicing throughout Okaloosa County since 2001. My partner’s name is Brandy Merrifield. She has worked with me since 2007. At Flaherty & Merrifield, we believe in one simple motto: No matter what someone has been accused of, they deserve to have someone on their side fighting for them.
What should I do if the police want to question me about a Sexual Battery accusation in Fort Walton Beach?
If the police are wanting to talk to you about a rape allegation, that means they have already gotten a complaint from the alleged victim and they believe that person’s story. That means they already think you are guilty. Whether you are guilty or not, the police are trained to manipulate suspects into incriminating themselves. If you agree to talk to them without an attorney, you are walking right into their trap.
If the police contact you, call Flaherty & Merrifield right away at (850) 243-6097.
Sexual Battery or Rape under Florida Law
According to Florida Statute 794.011, in order for someone to be proven guilty of Sexual Battery, the State must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
“oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by, or union with, the sexual organ of another or the anal or vaginal penetration of another by any other object.”
Depending on the particular facts and circumstances of the case, Sexual Battery or Rape in Fort Walton Beach and throughout Florida is a felony offense with a potential prison sentence ranging from 15 years to LIFE. However it is charged, you will face a minimum sentence of many years in prison.
What defenses are there to a Sexual Battery accusation in Fort Walton Beach?
There is not a cookie-cutter strategy for defending Sexual Battery cases. Every case is different. When we meet, we will talk about the unique facts and circumstances of your case in order to build the most effective defense strategy possible.
Having said that, there are a few issues that we consider in every Sexual Battery case that we defend:
Consent is defined as “intelligent, knowing, and voluntary consent and does not include coerced submission. Consent does not mean the failure by the alleged victim to offer physical resistance to the offender.”
When we are building your defense, one of the areas to explore is whether we can make a credible argument that the alleged victim consented to the sexual activity. One way to develop this defense is through depositions. We will put the alleged victim under oath and question him/her extensively about all of the events leading up to the incident in question. We will challenge and attack their memory and their ability to recall specifics. We will also be prepared to question their truthfulness and their character if the evidence supports it.
Raising this issue at deposition can be a very effective way to show the prosecutor that their “victim” is not someone who can hold up in court. This can lead to charges being dismissed, or significantly reduced. It also prepares us for trial if that is the direction the case goes.
False accusation/Motive to Lie
At first glance, when someone hears the alleged victim’s story, their first reaction is to ask, “why would they make this up?” My job is to explore that question and try to find a motive for someone making such a serious allegation. If we can show that the alleged victim has a motive for making a false accusation, their credibility could be seriously damaged. This can be a very effective defense strategy. In fact, we have used that strategy to secure a Not Guilty verdict at trial for clients in the past.
What are the different types of Sexual Battery?
There are several different sub-types of Sexual Battery. The minimum penalty for Sexual Battery is 15 years in prison, but some of the enhancements raise the maximum sentence to life in prison.
Without any other aggravating factors, Sexual Battery, pursuant to Florida Statute 794.011, is a second degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Sexual Battery with Multiple Perpetrators
When the Florida legislature passed Statute 794.023, they explained that they were adding this enhancement because “an act of sexual battery, when committed by more than one person, presents a great danger to the public and is extremely offensive to civilized society.”
Sexual Battery with Multiple Perpetrators carries a possible sentence of LIFE in prison, if convicted.
Sexual Battery by a person in Familial or Custodial Authority
The law places additional responsibility on a person if they are in a position of custodial or familial authority. If the State can prove the underlying crime of Sexual Battery, and they can show that the defendant was a family member, or had custody of the victim, the possible penalty is LIFE in prison, if convicted.
Capital Sexual Battery
If the State can prove the underlying crime of Sexual Battery, and they can prove that the alleged victim was under the age of 12 at the time of the offense, the penalty is a mandatory life sentence if convicted.
Sexual Battery with Deadly Weapon or Great Force
If the State can prove the underlying offense of Sexual Battery, and they can also prove that the defendant used or threated to use a deadly weapon, the possible penalty is a life sentence pursuant to Florida Statute 794.011(3).
Sexual Battery with Victim Physically Helpless to Resist
Florida Statute 794.011(1)(e) defines physically helpless as “unconscious, asleep, or for any other reason physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act.”
If the State can prove the underlying offense of Sexual Battery, along with this enhancement, the possible sentence is 30 years in prison if the victim was 18 or older. If the victim was under 18, the charge is punishable by life in prison.
Sexual Battery with Coercion
If the State can prove the underlying offense of Sexual Battery, along with also proving that the offender threatened to retaliate against the victim, or threatened to use force or violence against the victim, the possible sentence is life in prison if the victim was under the age of 18. If the victim was 18 or older, the maximum sentence is 30 years in prison.
Sexual Battery with Victim Physically Incapacitated
According to Florida Statute 794.011(1)(j), physically incapacitated means “bodily impaired or handicapped and substantially limited in ability to resist or flee.”
If the State can prove this element, along with the underlying offense of Sexual Battery, the potential sentence is 30 years to life in prison.
How does the Punishment Code Scoresheet affect a sentence for Sexual Battery in Fort Walton Beach?
The Florida Punishment Code Scoresheet uses a point scoring model to calculate whether or not someone faces a mandatory prison sentence, if convicted. This is referred to as “scoring out” to prison. For more information about the Florida Punishment Code Scoresheet, click here.
The following are a few scenarios that will illustrate how the Scoresheet is used to calculate a minimum sentence:
1) Sexual Battery without harm, threat, or coercion carries 74 points. Here is how the minimum sentence would be calculated:
74 points – 28 = 46. 46 x 0.75 = 34.5 months in prison.
The State is also allowed to add points if there was sexual penetration involved:
74 points + 80 penetration points = 154. 154 – 28 = 126. 126 x 0.75 = 94.5 months in prison.
The State may choose to add a lower number of points for sexual contact:
74 points + 40 contact points = 114. 114 – 28 = 86. 86 x 0.75 = 64.5 months in prison.
2) Sexual Battery with a Deadly Weapon carries 116 points. Here is how the minimum sentence would be calculated:
116 points – 28 = 88. 88 x 0.75 = 66 months in prison.
If the State adds sexual penetration points:
116 points + 80 penetration points = 196. 196 – 28 = 168. 168 x 0.75 = 126 months in prison.
If the State adds sexual contact points:
116 points + 40 contact points = 156. 156 – 28 = 128. 128 x 0.75 = 96 months in prison.
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.