Sexual battery and other sex crimes are serious offenses that often come with significant penalties and jail time. Those penalties go up when the victim of the crime is a minor. As Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals recently explained, sexual battery on a minor encompasses a wide range of forceful behavior. Although the facts of this case may be tough for some readers to hear, the decision is an important one that offers some insight into what prosecutors, judges, and juries mean when they say “sexual battery.”
The defendant was living in Broward County with his daughter and her boyfriend when the boyfriend’s twin nine-year-old nieces came to visit the home. At some point while her mother was taking a nap, one of the girls went into the defendant’s bed with him. The girl later testified that he pulled her pants down, pulled his own pants down, and rolled over toward her. The girl tried unsuccessfully to get away. Her sister then came into the room and also tried to help the girl get away.
“Although at trial the victim stated that [the defendant]’s penis ‘touched’ her ‘butt,’ he victim told others shortly after the incident occurred that [he] had put his penis ‘in her butt,’” according to the court. A medical examination following the incident did not show any signs of injury but did uncover semen near the girl’s anus and vagina. DNA testing showed it was the defendant’s semen. He was charged with sexual battery on a minor and convicted of the crime following a jury trial.
The defendant later appealed the conviction, arguing that the trial judge incorrectly instructed the jury about the charge against him. The judge told the jury that to convict the defendant of sexual battery on a minor, it had to find that he “committed an act upon the victim in which the penis of [the defendant] penetrated or had union with the anus of the victim.” The judge further explained that “union” in this context meant “contact.” The defendant claimed on appeal that “union” actually means “penetration” under the law. As a result, he said the mere contact alleged in his case wasn’t enough to convict the defendant of the specific crime with which he was charged.
The Fourth District disagreed. The court cited the Florida Supreme Court’s 2001 decision in Seagrave v. State, in which the justices said “union permits a conviction based on contact with the relevant portion of anatomy, whereas penetration requires some entry into the relevant part, however slight…” The Fourth District also cited several appeals decisions in which other courts said contact was sufficient to warrant a sexual battery conviction.
As a result, the court upheld the defendant’s conviction.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a sex crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced lawyer. Clearwater sexual battery attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.
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