As an attorney I am often asked why some people in Florida are arrested after having consensual sexual relations with a minor and some aren’t, and it’s a very good question.
There is an article in the Tampa Bay Times this week about a 30 year old New Port Richey woman who was arrested for statutory rape with a minor. This relationship was not only consensual, this woman was actively living with her 17 year old boyfriend in a committed relationship and she is currently pregnant with his child.
Contrast that to the young couple “in love” where the 19 year old high school graduate is recently found to be involved in a relationship with his 17 year old high school girlfriend. Her parents are furious, the police are contacted, but no arrest is made.
Why? Because Florida Statute 794.05 states: “A person 24 years of age or older who engages in sexual activity with a person who is 16 or 17 years of age commits a felony of the second degree….”
So, this 30 year old woman in New Port Richey has missed the mark by six years. Had she been 24 years of age or younger when this was discovered, there would be no arrest.
The age of consent in Florida is 18 years of age. Ordinarily sexual activity with anyone under 18 is statutory rape since minors cannot legally “consent” to sexual activity. It is rape as defined by statute.
Many states saw the unintended results of this harsh law with boyfriends and girlfriends getting arrested at 17, 18 and 19 which can be life altering in terms of their record. An arrest may affect their employability, their ability to get into the military and to qualify for certain jobs. They may be labeled as “sexual predators” which comes with terrible consequences. These youthful indiscretions are becoming more common and states, like Florida, made a public policy decision not to punish young adults for sexual activity which is trending younger and younger.
However, the more one grows into adulthood, the less tolerant the law becomes. Starting at age 25, one is presumed to know the inappropriateness of a sexual relationship with, basically, a child making adult decisions. Many might argue protection of adults up to 24 years old is too lenient, but that’s a legislative argument.
This is such a delicate subject, but I think most can agree that there is a difference between two 17 year olds who make adult decisions while still being children, and a 30 year old New Port Richey woman living with a 17 year old. At some point, it just becomes creepy.