Year after year, the Sunshine State is a top choice for people looking to move away. Its glorious beaches and year-round warm weather draw many people from up north, while diverse urban areas often attract people from less populated cities. However, like with any other state, parts of Florida may be unsafe to live in due to a high crime rate.
Florida residents are sure to welcome news of reduced crime throughout the state. Statistics from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement revealed that the overall crime rate in the country’s third-most populated state is trending downward and that the decrease has affected the rates of both violent and property crime. On the surface, the crime report shows the State of Florida is headed in the right direction. A closer look, however, shows us that the facts are not as agreeable as they seemed. The rate of sexual crimes seems to have increased.
Overall Crime Rate Drops in Florida
FDLE’s Florida Uniform Crime Report for January-June 2017 compares the rates of various crimes in Florida to those of the previous year. The Department found that, in the first half of 2017, 6,000 fewer crimes were reported than in the first half of 2016. However, the rates of individual crimes did not drop evenly.
The rates of some crimes in the state actually shot up while those of several others plummeted. Instances of the following crimes went down since 2016:
- Robbery: -4.6%
- Murder: -5.3%
- Aggravated assault: -3.6%
- Larceny: -1.4%
- Domestic violence (all crimes): -1.0%
- Burglary: -8.3%
On the other hand, instances of rape and related crimes went up in the first half of 2017:
- Rape: +8.1%
- Stalking: +12.6%
- Aggravated stalking: +2.4%
What counts as rape in Florida?
Rape, or sexual battery as it is called in the statute, is defined in Florida Statute §794.011 as any non-consensual oral, vaginal, or anal penetration or union of a sex organ with another sex organ. Sexual battery is a felony offense for which the degree of the felony (and also the consequences) varies by the facts of the case.
In a sexual battery case, any evidence of an underage victim, the use of a weapon, and/or physical injuries caused to the victim can enhance the penalties and accompanying charges. In Florida, any adult who commits a sexual battery upon a victim under 12 years old faces a capital felony, punishable by the death penalty.
How does Rape Impact Victims?
The penalties for crimes of sexual violence like rape tend to be some of the harshest employed by the criminal justice system in part due to the deep impact they have on victims and their families. An act of sexual violence like rape can lead to long-lasting psychological, emotional, and physical problems for victims. Victims may experience:
- Flashbacks and post traumatic stress disorder
- Sleep disorders
- Suicidal thoughts
- Substance abuse
Physically, a rape can cause harm in the form of:
- Difficulty walking
- Broken bones
- Sexually transmitted diseases
A particularly violent attack may cause injuries from which the victim cannot fully heal. Judges may consider the lifelong impact of a sexual assault when issuing a sentence upon a conviction.
What is the difference between stalking and aggravated stalking?
Stalking is a criminal offense in which a person willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person. The crime is defined in Florida Statute §784.048 as a misdemeanor of the first degree.
The same statute also defines aggravated stalking, which is a third-degree felony. Aggravated stalking involves the same behavior as stalking, but with the addition of making a credible threat to harm that person. A person who stalks a child under 16 also commits aggravated stalking, as well as someone who stalks someone else who has an injunction against the defendant.
Fight Sexual Violence Charges in West Palm Beach
If you have been falsely accused of rape, stalking or aggravated stalking in Florida you could face an enormous blow to your reputation even if you are never found guilty of the offense of which you are accused. An accusation alone could have many negative impacts on your life, including changing the relationships you enjoy with your family members, close friends, and even your coworkers and employers. In some cases, the charges alone could cost a person his job and challenge their trust with the people closest to them. Because of all the negativity a rape charge brings, it’s crucial to work with an experienced defense lawyer as soon as charges have been filed and if possible, as soon as you find out that a person has accused you of rape.
Be sure to protect your reputation and your future by talking to a defense lawyer in West Palm Beach who fights sexual battery charges. At the Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel, we are committed to attaining the best possible outcome for those facing criminal charges in West Palm Beach and have defended crimes of sexual violence for more than 30 years. Give us a call at 561-622-5575 for a free consultation or contact us.