What is the Age of Consent in Florida?

Written by:Julian Stroleny PortraitJulian Stroleny
Woman in staircase

The saying “Age is just a number!” is often used casually, especially when someone is in a sexual relationship with a younger person. While it might be said in a light-hearted manner, it is vital to understand that violating the age of consent law is a serious offense that can result in criminal charges.

You should be aware of the legal age of consent and the potential consequences of violating this law. In Florida, the age of consent is strictly enforced, and being charged with a sexual offense involving a minor can lead to significant penalties, including imprisonment and even the death penalty in exceptional cases.

The legal age of consent in Florida is 18 years. This means once someone turns 18, they are free to have a sexual relationship with another adult (18 years or older), barring certain exceptions. However, there is more to the age of consent in Florida than this basic law.

Florida Laws on the Age of Consent 

The age when someone can legally agree to have sexual intercourse in Florida is 18. This means that two people who are both 18 or older can legitimately make this decision. However, teenagers who are 16 or 17 years old fall into a special category. They are allowed to agree to have intercourse with someone who is not older than 23. It is a measure that acknowledges the reality of teenage relationships while still trying to protect the younger generation from potentially exploitative situations.

On the other hand, it is unlawful for anyone 24 years or older to have sex with a person who is 16 or 17 years of age. For anyone younger than 16, the law is clear: they cannot legally agree to have intercourse, period. If the victim is under 12 and the alleged perpetrator is 18 or older, Florida considers this a capital felony. This is one of the most severe charges, with punishments that include the death penalty or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Florida also protects older adults who might be vulnerable. The consent laws state that committing a sexual act with an elderly person who cannot consent due to mental incapacity is a serious felony.

The “Romeo and Juliet” Law in Florida

Formally known as a “Close-in-Age Exemption,” the Romeo and Juliet law in Florida provides some protection for those who engage in consensual sexual intercourse when both participants are close to each other in age, and one or both are below the age of consent. Specifically, if the younger person is 14 to 17 years old and the older partner is no more than four years older, they may be exempt from statutory rape charges. This law is designed to prevent the criminalization of teenage relationships that are consensual and close in age.

If you are convicted of any sexual offenses that involve consensual sexual activity between minors, you can petition the court to remove the requirement to register as a sex offender. However, the Romeo and Juliet law does not provide a defense to criminal charges; instead, it offers a mechanism for someone convicted under certain circumstances (where the sexual contact was consensual and the age gap is within the specified range) to avoid the lifelong consequences of sex offender registration.

What is Considered Statutory Rape in Florida?

Under Florida Statutes Section 794.05, statutory rape is defined as “Unlawful Sexual Activity with Certain Minors.” It states that it is a criminal offense for a person 24 years of age or older to engage in sexual activity with a person 16 or 17 years old. Even if the younger person consents, it is still considered a violation because of their age.

The law treats sexual relations involving minors very seriously, and statutory rape charges are a critical aspect of this framework. If an individual older than 24 enters into a consensual sexual relationship with a minor, they can be charged with statutory rape. Similarly, people between 18 and 24 can face these charges if they engage in a non-consensual sexual act with someone aged 16 or 17. Notably, for minors under the age of 16, consent for sexual activities can legally only be given by their parents or guardians.

The real challenge with these laws comes into play when both people involved are close in age but fall on different sides of the age rules. Even when a relationship seems okay and consensual, it could still get you in legal hot waters. Sometimes, parents might use these laws to break up a relationship they do not approve of, seeing it as a way to protect their child. Or, after a breakup, one might file charges out of spite. 

Keep in mind that consent from a minor (someone under 18) is not considered a legal defense against a statutory rape charge in Florida. The law focuses on age rather than consent. Although these laws are designed to protect young people, they can also result in catastrophic outcomes for others involved such as possible jail time, having to register as a sex offender, and other long-lasting effects on the accused’s life.

Penalties for Statutory Rape Convictions in Florida

The penalties vary depending on the ages of all the parties and the nature of the conduct. Unlawful Sexual Activity with Certain Minors is generally charged as a second-degree felony if the offender is 24 years of age or older and the victim is 16 or 17 years old.

For a second-degree felony, the penalty can be up to 15 years in prison. The actual sentence depends on the judge’s discretion, the specifics of the case, and the presence of any aggravating or mitigating factors. Convictions can also carry fines, potentially as high as $10,000 for a second-degree felony.

In some cases, the accused might be sentenced to probation instead of, or in addition to, prison time. This can include conditions like mandatory counseling, no contact with minors, and regular check-ins with a probation officer.

That said, one of the most long-lasting consequences of a conviction for statutory rape in Florida is the requirement to register as a sex offender. This registry is open for anyone to search: employers, landlords, or neighbors. Removing your name from this registry later on is not an easy process. Moreover, if you neglect to register as mandated by Florida criminal law, you are looking at a charge of a third-degree felony.

Florida Map

How We Defend Our Clients Against Statutory Rape Charges

Facing charges for statutory rape in Florida can feel like you are up against an unbeatable system, due to the no-holds-barred approach law enforcement takes. But it is not the end of the road. At Stroleny Law, P.A. Florida’s top-rated criminal defense attorney Julian Stroleny has built a reputation on pursuing aggressive defenses and compelling arguments to make sure his client’s side of the story is strongly presented before the judge and the jury. 

Over the span of a decade, we have helped numerous clients get reduced charges or have their charges dropped altogether. Depending on the nature of the case against you, we might use the following strategies to defend you:

  • Question the credibility of evidence: We may scrutinize the reliability and integrity of the evidence presented (messages, eyewitness testimonies, or any digital evidence) to find inconsistencies or flaws in the prosecution’s case.
  • Prove a violation of your constitutional rights: It is not uncommon for overzealous prosecutors to sometimes cross a line when obtaining evidence against the defendant. We will make sure that all evidence they have against you was obtained legally and that your rights were not violated at any point during the investigation or arrest process. If we find otherwise, your case may get thrown out altogether.
  • Create doubt about your identity: In cases where identity is at issue, we may argue that you were not the person who committed the alleged act. This is more applicable in scenarios where the accusation is based on uncertain identification.
  • Use the Romeo and Juliet Exemption: Florida’s “Romeo and Juliet” law can provide a defense in cases where the sexual intercourse was consensual and both you and the alleged victim are close in age (within a four-year age difference, and the younger party is between 14 and 17 years old). This may not be able to completely eliminate criminal charges, but it can have a great impact on the severity of the penalties, especially concerning sex offender registration.

Our legal team has a solid track record of defending clients against all types of sex crimes, including:

  • Sexual assault or sexual battery (rape)
  • Child sexual abuse
  • Lewd or lascivious battery (sexual activity with a person 12 to 16 years old)
  • Lewd or lascivious molestation, conduct, or exhibition
  • Child pornography charges
  • Traveling to meet a minor
  • Procuring a person under 18 for prostitution (sex trafficking of minors)
  • Solicitation of a minor (including through electronic communication)
  • Unlawful sexual activity with certain minors
  • Failure to register as a sex offender

Call us today at (786) 481-4129 to schedule a free case evaluation with our Florida sex crime lawyer.

Request a Free Case Evaluation

Fill out the form below and we will respond to you shortly.

The materials on this web site are intended for informational purposes only. The materials on this Web site are not intended to be, nor should they be interpreted as, legal advice or opinion. The reader should not consider this information to be an invitation to an attorney client relationship, should not rely on information presented here for any purpose, and should always seek the legal advice of counsel in the appropriate jurisdiction. Transmission and receipt of the information in this site and/or communication with the Firm via e-mail is not intended to solicit or create, and does not create, an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and any person or entity.