Florida sexual battery cases often focus on intricate legal arguments about whether what the person who is accused of the crime allegedly did qualifies as a crime. Those debates can have significant consequences. They can mean the difference between a conviction or acquittal and determine the type of punishment that a person faces in the event of a conviction. A recent case out of Florida’s Supreme Court, for example, focused on what state lawmakers meant when they included the term “unnatural” in the lewd or lascivious battery law.A defendant was charged with lewd or lascivious battery stemming from an incident in which he allegedly had sex with a female victim between the ages of 12 and 16 years old. At trial, his lawyer asked the judge to instruct the jury that he could instead be convicted of an “unnatural and lascivious act,” a lesser offense that carries a less significant punishment. The judge declined, finding that prosecutors had not alleged that the defendant engaged in “unnatural” conduct. A jury eventually convicted him of lewd or lascivious battery.
The state’s Fourth District Court of Appeal later overturned the conviction, finding that the judge should have instructed the jury on the lesser offense. The appeals court said the allegation that the defendant had sex with a minor qualified as “unnatural” under the law because “such conduct is not in accordance with nature or with normal feelings or behavior and are lustful acts performed with sensual intent on the part of the defendant.”