It is difficult to think of a more life-changing accusation than Sexual Battery or rape as it is commonly known. While it is true that our system of justice is based on the principle of innocent until proven guilty, in cases of sexual battery, the opposite seems true. Just being accused of such a terrible crime can ruin someone’s life, whether they actually did it or not. And if you are in the military, they may begin separation proceedings against you before you have even had your day in court.
If you have been accused of sexual battery, I understand that you may think your situation is hopeless and that your life is over. Please do not make that mistake. There are steps you can take right now that will greatly impact what ends up happening to you. This page will discuss those steps in more detail, but the two things that will have the greatest influence on the outcome of your case are (1) Your choice of defense counsel, and (2) Whether you agree to talk to the police.
My name is Tim Flaherty. I have been an Okaloosa County sexual battery defense lawyer since 2001. Brandy Merrifield is my partner. As a team, we have extensive experience defending sexual battery cases. Call us today at (850) 243-6097 for a free consultation.
How will you defend me against a Sexual Battery charge in Okaloosa County?
Obviously every case is different, and when we meet to discuss your case, we will explain to you in detail how we plan to defend you. Having said that, there are two defenses that almost always apply in Sexual Battery allegations. We have used both of these defenses to win Sexual Battery cases at trial in Okaloosa County.
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.”
If we are able to make a valid argument that the accuser agreed to the sexual act, it is possible that you could be cleared of all charges. However, just because the accuser didn’t say no doesn’t mean there was consent. The burden is on the accused to show that that the accuser actually consented to the act. And if the case involves a situation where the accuser was “passed out” or unable to give consent, that would NOT be a defense.
We have had cases in the past where the accuser engaged in consensual sex with our client, but then regretted it after the fact. It doesn’t matter if the person regrets it later. If the act was consensual at the time it occurred, that is a valid defense.
If our client tells us that the accuser is lying, or making a false accusation, the first thing we need to do is a thorough investigation of the accuser’s background to find out what their possible motivation might be to falsely accuse someone. If we can develop a compelling narrative that supports this theory, it can be a very effective defense.
Two quick examples:
A couple years ago we had a client who was accused of Sexual Battery in Okaloosa County. The allegation was that he sexually assaulted a girl at a party. After taking depositions of the accuser as well as her friends, we learned that she had recently been caught cheating by her boyfriend and her boyfriend had told her that if she did it again, he would break up with her. At this party, her boyfriend found out she had sex with our client, so rather than face being dumped, she accused our client of raping her. That case went to trial in Okaloosa County and our client was found not guilty by a jury.
Another client was charged with Sexual Battery. He was accused of sexually assaulting his teenage sister in law during a family vacation. Once again, we fully investigated this girl, talked to her relatives and friends, and learned that she had developed a serious crush on our client. When he failed to respond to her advances, she turned around and accused him of rape. This case also went to trial in Okaloosa County and our client was found not guilty by a jury.
These examples are offered to show you that a creative, diligent, and thorough defense can uncover a lot of background information about these cases that we can use to help our clients. We also offer it to show you that in each of the examples I listed, we put in hundreds of hours and months of work to meticulously plan and execute these defense strategies.
That is the difference that an effective criminal defense team can make.
What if the police want to talk to me about a sexual allegation in Okaloosa County?
The advice is very simple: Unless you want to go to prison, do not talk to the police.
The police officers that investigate sexual crimes are very well-trained in how to interrogate suspects and get them to incriminate themselves, whether the person is guilty or not.
If the police contact you about an allegation in Okaloosa County, you should respectfully tell them that you will not talk about anything without your attorney present.
In most Sexual Battery allegations, it really boils down to he said/she said. The police hate those kind of cases because without definitive proof, physical evidence, or a confession from the defendant, it is very difficult to prove someone guilty of Sexual Battery. They will use whatever tricks and manipulations they can to get you to incriminate yourself.
Do not play their game. Instead, pick up the phone and call (850) 243-6097. Do not assume that this will just go away. Take proactive steps to protect yourself if you are the subject of a Sexual Battery investigation.
What is the maximum penalty for Sexual Battery in Okaloosa County?
Under the Florida Sentencing Guidelines, there are a number of factors that can influence the potential penalty for Sexual Battery. These factors include, for example, the mental state or condition of the victim, the level of force that was used by the perpetrator, the level of injury suffered by the victim, whether a weapon was used, etc. These factors can either change the level of the charge, or they can act as sentencing enhancers under the Sentencing Guidelines.
Sexual Battery is punishable by a maximum prison sentence of either 15 years, 30 years, or life.
First Degree- up to Life or 30 years in prison if the victim/allegations fall under the following categories:
- If the victim was mentally incapacitated which is defined as “temporarily incapable of appraising or controlling a person’s own conduct due to the influence of a narcotic, anesthetic, or intoxicating substance administered without his or her consent or due to any other act committed upon that person without his or her consent.”
- If the victim was physically helpless to resist which means “unconscious, asleep, or for any other reason physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act.”
- If the victim was physically incapacitated which means “impaired or handicapped and substantially limited in ability to resist or flee.”
- If the defendant used a weapon during the commission of the offense.
Second Degree- up to 15 years in prison if the sexual battery took place without force.
What is the minimum penalty for Sexual Battery?
We have already seen what the maximum penalty can be for sexual battery. However, it is also important to look at the Florida Punishment Code scoresheet to calculate what the minimum sentence could be. Again, this sentence is influenced by a number of different factors.
Here are a few examples to illustrate how a sentence is calculated:
Sexual Battery with Slight Force is scored as a level 8 offense which carries 74 points and has a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. If the state proves that sexual contact or sexual penetration took place, an additional 40 or 80 points is added. The minimum sentence would be calculated as follows:
- 74 points + 40 points for sexual contact = 114 points. 114 – 28 = 86. 86 x 0.75 = 64.5 months in prison.
- 74 points + 80 points for sexual penetration = 154 points. 154 – 28 = 126. 126 x 0.75 = 94.5 months in prison.
Sexual Battery against a victim who is mentally or physically incapacitated or helpless to resist is scored as a level 9 offense which carries 92 points and has a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. If sexual contact or sexual penetration points are added, the minimum sentence would be calculated as follows:
- 92 points + 40 contact points = 132 points. 132 – 28 = 104. 104 x 0.75 = 78 months in prison.
- 92 points + 80 penetration points = 172 points. 172 – 28 = 144. 144 x 0.75 = 108 months in prison.
Sexual Battery with a Weapon is a level 10 offense which carries 116 points and has a maximum sentence of 30 years to life in prison. If contact or penetration points are added, the minimum sentence would be calculated as follows:
- 116 points + 40 contact points = 156 points. 156 – 28 = 128. 128 x 0.75 = 96 months in prison.
- 116 points + 80 penetration points = 196 points. 196 – 28 = 168. 168 x 0.75 = 126 months in prison.
Call an Okaloosa County Sexual Battery Attorney
As you can see, you are in for a fight. If you win, you get your life back. If you lose, you go to prison for a very long time. With stakes this high, it makes sense to hire a professional criminal defense team with experience defending sexual battery cases in Okaloosa County.
If you or a loved one have been accused of Sexual Battery in Okaloosa County, call Flaherty & Merrifield at (850) 243-6097 for a free consultation.
To learn more about we defend sex crime accusations, click here.