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An explanation of lewd and lascivious behavior laws in Florida.

Florida has a strict set of lewd and lascivious behavior laws that often carry substantial penalties. In many cases a charge can constitute a second or third-degree felony. Nearly all convictions may carry a prison sentence and the requirement that the defendant register as a sexual offender.

The criminal lewd and lascivious behaviors are broken down into battery, molestation, conduct and exhibition. In these cases, the belief that the victim was of the age of majority is not a defense, nor is the consent of a minor victim a defense.

Lewd and lascivious battery involves a sexual act with a person between 12 and 16. Contact with the victim's body is not necessary. Coercion to engage in sexual activity with another applies. It is a second-degree felony but if the perpetrator is an adult with a prior offense related to sexual conduct with a minor, it is first-degree felony.

Molestation involves intentional touching of another under 16 in the genitals, buttocks or chest, including touching through clothing. Encouraging or coercing the victim to touch those areas of the perpetrator's body is also a crime. The crime can be a life felony if the victim is under 12. In other cases it is a second-degree felony for adult defendants and a third-degree felony for minor defendants.

Lewd conduct involves other forms of touching, done in a lewd or lascivious manner, or enticing a minor under 16 to do the same. Is may be a second or third-degree felony. Exhibition involves intentional exposure or masturbation and may be a second or third-degree felony.

A person charged with any of these crimes may benefit from consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Each element of the prosecution's case must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction to succeed. Constitutional protections still apply and a qualified defense attorney might know if any were violated.

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