Stephen G. Cobb - Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer

How is a Sex Crime Determined to be Either a Misdemeanor or a Felony?

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

The number one thing that determines whether a sex crime is charged as a felony or a misdemeanor is how the State Attorney decides to charge the offense. However, an important factor that one must always consider is whether the crime charged is statutorily a felony or a misdemeanor. Let me give you the clearest example I possibly can, involving Florida Statute Section 800.04, for lewd or lascivious molestation acts or battery, and 800.03 Florida Statute for indecent exposure. Both statutes are in the area of Florida criminal law under Statute Section 800 that involves sexual offenses, yet 800.04 is a felony and 800.03 is a misdemeanor. The former requires sex offender designation and registration if someone is convicted, whereas a conviction under 800.03 does not invoke sex offender designation or registration. When it comes to charging, the number one thing that determines whether or not a sexual offense is a felony or a misdemeanor is how it is charged by a prosecutor.

This something to consider very carefully when it comes to plea bargaining as well. During the plea bargaining process, you have to have a strong defense in order to give the Office of the State Attorney a justification for a substitution or a reduction in charge. If the charge is reduced, it may be reduced from a felony sex offense to a misdemeanor sex offense, or it could be substituted from a sex offense to a non-sex offense. A classic example of a substitution would be Florida Statutes 794.011 which is sexual battery. In certain sexual battery prosecutions, if the defense mounted is strong enough, then it’s possible to negotiate a substitution of charge to something like aggravated assault. Aggravated assault is a very serious felony; however, under Florida’s punishment code, it does not automatically require a prison sentence based on the number of points assessed.

If someone does obtain a substitution of aggravated assault for sexual battery, that means in most cases they are going to be sentenced to probation in place of prison, and they will not be designated as a sexual offender with lifetime registration.

How Does Being Charged With a Sex Crime Impact Someone’s Everyday Life?

When someone is charged with a sex offense, this is going to be one of the most stressful and upsetting things that will ever happen to them, simply because every area of life will be impacted. Relationships with the family will be affected, especially those with children. In some cases, people are not even allowed to have contact with their own children when they’ve been charged with a sexual offense case. Many people get fired. Right now, we are seeing a rash of firings all across the United States where people are being accused of sexual impropriety that may be 20, 30 or 40 years old. However, in today’s climate, they are being fired without even being arrested or prosecuted.

At this particular juncture in time, I would go so far as to say that if you or someone you love is charged with a sex offense at any time, it is virtually impossible to get a fair trial. I expect to see very harsh sentencings as these scandals continue to unfold in the media. The most important things someone should do if they or someone they love has been charged with a sex offense is:

  1. To contact a board certified specialist in criminal trial law if the case is within Florida.
  2. Use a mental health strategy such as our “Coping With Stress During Criminal Prosecution.” People who do not use a stress control strategy often end up sabotaging their cases and blowing their lives up.
  3. Have a digital strategy in place.

Sex offense cases are more high profile now than ever, and one of the things I recommend that people do early on in the process is digital erasure. Digital erasure is the removal or burying of negative information about someone. This is critically important in sex offense cases. If someone would like more information about it, all they have to do is give us a call and I’ll be more than happy to speak with them about it.

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

For more information on Felony & Misdemeanor Sex Offenses, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (850) 423-0035 today.

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Stephen G. Cobb, Esq.

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