Articles Posted in Sex Crimes in Jacksonville

A recent article from the Associated Press highlights the growing number of people being placed on sex offender registries all over the country.  According to the report, there are more than 800,000 people on registries in the United States.  Their crimes vary from relatively minor indecent exposure charges to serious child molestation charges.  In certain states, Florida included, once you are placed on a sex offender registry, you can NEVER get off.

When someone is arrested for any sex crime in Jacksonville, they will most likely have a very high bond.  As high as if they were facing a murder charge with a lot less evidence.  The State Attorney’s Office then has about two and a half weeks to make a decision about what to do with the case.  They can file the case as charged, they can drop the case because of a lack of evidence, or try to negotiate a disposition prior the the filing decision.

Negotiations in sex cases are very important and can have lifelong consequences.  Sometimes, the prosecutor assigned to the case will offer to file a non-sex charge in return for the defendant serving jail time, going on probation, or both.  Sometimes, the prosecutor will offer the sex charge with no jail or prison time, but require sex offender probation with the added bonus of being labeled a sex offender for life.  In Duval County and every county in Florida, when you are convicted of a sex crime, such as sexual battery, sex offender probation is going to be part of the punishment.  Florida sex offender probation is the most difficult probation in our justice system.  An offender will be required to successfully complete psychosexual counseling, have no unsupervised contact with minors, cannot live within 1,000 feet of places where children regularly congregate, submit themselves to searches from the probation officer at all times, may have to wear an ankle monitor as well as many other conditions.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with multiple other law enforcement agencies in Florida, has made several arrests connected to an internet/traveler sting.  According to an article in The Florida Times Union, four men have been arrested this week on sex charges in Jacksonville.  This is the tail-end of the arrests, according to the report.  Eleven arrests were made in July after the sheriff’s office conducted “Operation Blue Hawk”.  Typically, detectives pose as either a boy or a girl, between twelve and fourteen years of age, asking to meet up.  When the man appears at a time and location certain, they are usually arrested on the spot for soliciting a minor, traveling to meet a minor, and unlawful use of a two-way communication device.  All of these Duval sex charges are felonies.  One of the men allegedly involved in this sting possessed child pornography when arrested.

When police set up these stings, they have their act together.  All communications with a subject are saved, including emails, direct messages, texts and phone calls.  When the suspect comes to the location set up by the detectives, they are immediately arrested when they walk in the door.  All electronic devices are taken from them, including their cell phones and computers.  The phones and computers are searched and if any questionable images or videos are found, a new charge will be added.  Under Florida law, if you seduce, lure or entice a child, or someone you believe to be a child, to commit illegal sexual conduct, this is a third degree felony.  In addition to facing up to five years in prison, you are facing being labeled a sex offender, forever.  Traveling to meet the minor is also a third degree felony, punishable the same way.  The one felony associated with these stings that is not a “sex” charge is unlawful use of a two-way communication device.  This is also a felony in Florida.  The one man in this sting has an additional charge of possession of child pornography.  Child pornography is defined as any image showing a minor engaged in a sex act.

If arrested in a traveler sex sting, it is imperative to seek the advice of an experienced and knowledgeable Jacksonville sex crime lawyer.  Not every case is the same.  Mitigation can be presented to the state attorney’s office to possibly have the charges reduced or even dropped in the right circumstance.

A man is in jail in Gainesville, Florida after a Florida football player intervened in an alleged sexual assault on an intoxicated woman.  According to an article on KTLA 5 news, the football player was working security at a local bar and noticed the man and woman touching near a dumpster.  Both parties appeared drunk and when the man started touching the woman sexually, security pulled the man away and the police were called.  The woman was allegedly unable to hold her head up and had trouble standing.  The accused man was charged with sexual battery and has a $500,000 bond.

Sexual battery when a victim is physically incapacitated or unable to resist is one of the most serious sex crimes in Jacksonville and all of Florida.  It can be charged as a first degree felony, which is punishable by up to thirty years in prison.  Florida statutes define a “physically helpless” victim as one who is unconscious, asleep, or is physically unable to consent.  Being drunk or intoxicated on drugs can be considered physically helpless in this case.  In any rape allegation, it usually comes down to a he said/she said.  A woman saying she did not consent to sexual contact can be enough to prosecute a sexual battery.  Even if she did not physically resist.  Even if she did not initially report the alleged assault.  Even if the two were seen together, happy, just before the alleged rape.  In many cases, there is no physical evidence to substantiate the claim.  If the alleged victim seems credible to the prosecutor, that is enough to move forward.  In the Gainesville case, the security reportedly took cell phone video of the contact between the parties at the dumpster.  If there is video evidence of sexual contact, the issue will come down to whether or not the woman consented or had the ability to consent.

The extremely high bond, half a million dollars, is not abnormal when there are accusations of sexual misconduct.  In Duval County and around Florida, bonds for sex cases are far higher than any others, including some murders and violent crimes.  The mere suggestion or allegation of illegal sexual contact can lead to being arrested and put in jail on a bond so high you cannot meet it or you could have no bond.  Just based on a person’s word.  That is why it is so important to consult with an experienced Duval County Sex Crime Attorney the minute there is any word of sexual misconduct.

Three local young men are not going to be considered sex offenders or even felons after the State Attorney’s Office reduced their Duval County sex charges to misdemeanors.  According to an article in The Florida Times Union, the three were arrested in early April on charges of lewd and lascivious battery, a second degree felony, and computer pornography, which is a third degree felony.  In addition to looking at many years in prison, the men were facing being sex offenders for the rest of their lives.  The alleged victim, a minor, originally told police she was forced to engaging in sexual contact, but later changed her story.  The article also reports that video of the incident shows that the contact was consensual.  All three will enter pleas to contributing to the delinquency of a minor, which is a first degree misdemeanor in Florida.  They will be sentenced to probation to perform community service hours, have no contact with the girl, and have no unsupervised contact with minors.

When someone is even accused of a sex crime in Jacksonville, there is a stigma that automatically attaches.  Even if the accusation is a complete lie.  In sex cases, there is often no physical or eyewitness evidence, just someone’s word.  Despite the lack of evidence which so often accompanies sex charges, they are punishable as if you had murdered someone.  Many Jacksonville sex crimes are punishable by fifteen years, thirty years or life in prison.  There are all kinds of reasons people lie, but when someone says they have been sexually assaulted, there is usually going to be an arrest.

If you are arrested for any type of sex crime in northeast Florida or anywhere, you should first contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your area.  Just because you have been arrested does not mean that the State Attorney’s Office will file the charges you were arrested for.  As in the above mentioned case, prosecutors have wide discretion in what charges they pursue.  In this case, the State’s alleged victim lied up front, claiming she had sex against her will.  It turned out she was lying, for whatever reason.  Even if the sex was consensual, a minor cannot consent to any sexual contact and the State could have pursued the sex charges.  Instead, they chose to drop all of the sex felony charges and let the men enter pleas to a misdemeanor.  They will be able to go on with their lives and hopefully avoid any of these type of issues in the future.

Based on allegations in Pennsylvania, Bill Cosby will face trial for sexual assault.  According to an article in the Washington Post, the criminal judge in Cosby’s case issued a ruling that the prosecutors in his case had enough evidence to submit his case to a jury.  Even though Cosby has faced many allegations of sexual assaults from multiple women, this will be the first he will be tried for if the case actually goes to trial.

When someone is arrested for a sex charge in Duval County, the State Attorney’s Office will assign the case to a particular prosecutor.  That prosecutor will be in the Special Assault Division, commonly referred to as “SAD”.  Once assigned, that prosecutor must make a decision about what happens in the case.  This part of the process is called pre-filing.  The prosecutor will look at all of the reports and speak to the detective, witnesses and alleged victim.  This is the most critical part of any case.  The benefit of hiring an experienced sex crime lawyer in Duval County is that the lawyer will meet with the assistant state attorney before they make any decisions about the case.  The criminal defense lawyer can also accumulate evidence that the police missed or were not interested in.

If the prosecutor elects to file the sex case in Jacksonville, a defendant has a few options.  The accused can fight the charge in court.  Their sex defense attorney will get all of the reports generated in the case and any video and audio recordings taken.  At that point, depositions will be scheduled.  Depositions are where sworn testimony is taken of any and all witnesses in the case, including the person making the allegations.  Almost anything can be asked at depositions, even if those questions cannot be asked in a trial.  Once all the depositions are completed, the case will go to trial.

A man from Clay County has been accused of raping an incapacitated woman and subsequently posting pictures of the woman online.  According to an article in the Florida Times Union, the man knew the woman before the alleged incident, which police are saying occurred this past New Year’s Eve.  The article reports that the two were together the next day, after the alleged rape.  The man allegedly put provocative pictures of the woman on social media after the encounter.  Those posts will most certainly be used in the prosecution of the accused.

The first and most serious charge the man is facing is sexual battery while the victim is incapacitated.  Under Florida law, a sexual battery is any sex act forced on someone else without consent. Consent has to be “intelligent, knowing and voluntary”.  When a victim is helpless to resist, the sexual battery is elevated from a second degree felony to a first.  This means the accused is facing up to thirty years in prison and being a sexual offender for life.  A victim is considered physically helpless if they cannot tell the other person they are unwilling to consent to the sex act.  In most Clay County rape cases involving physical helplessness, the victim is drunk on alcohol or high on some kind of drug.  If the sexual battery case went to trial, a jury will have to be convinced beyond all reasonable doubt that the alleged victim was in fact incapacitated.

The other two charges are less common and are both misdemeanors in Florida.   Sexual cyber harassment is when a person publishes sexual images of someone on the Internet without that person’s consent.  The person posting the sexually explicit material must have the intent to cause the victim substantial emotional distress.  It has to be willful and malicious.  This law does not just apply to pictures.  It also includes videos or any other real depiction of another person in a sexual position.  Video voyeurism is the second misdemeanor the man is charged with.  This occurs when a suspect installs a recording device to record someone where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy.  If the suspect is nineteen years-old or older, the Clay voyeurism charge is a third degree felony.  If the suspect is under nineteen, it is a first degree misdemeanor.

A Fletcher High School teacher was arrested for unlawful sexual activity with certain minors this week.  According to a report in The Florida Times Union, the teacher is accused of having sexual contact with a girl who is either sixteen or seventeen years-old.  Police allege that the two had intercourse and oral sex at the school, according to the article.  The alleged victim cooperated with police during their investigation and apparently wore a recording device on her person to document their conversations.  Once police completed their investigation, they sought and obtained an arrest warrant for this sex charge with a $35,003 bond.  The report indicates that the teacher invoked his right to remain silent when interviewed.

Unlawful sexual activity with certain minors is a second degree felony in Florida punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.  Along with the possible prison term, this charge, along with all Jacksonville sex charges, can lead to the lifetime sentence of becoming a sex offender or predator.  To prove this charge, the state attorney’s office must show that there was sexual activity between someone who is twenty four years-old or older and the alleged victim is sixteen or seventeen.  Under Florida statutes, “sexual activity” is defined as any oral, vaginal or anal penetration or union with another’s sexual organ or an object.  The alleged victim’s prior sexual history is considered not relevant under Florida law.

During police investigations or sex accusations, JSO detectives follow a similar pattern.  It starts with a report of unlawful sexual activity, which can be sex with minors to allegations of rape.  A sex crime detective is assigned and depending on the age of the alleged victim, will interview the alleged victim.  If the victim is under eighteen years of age, the Child Protection Team will interview the minor.  If the case calls for it, a medical examination will be conducted as well.  Once an interview is done, the police will turn their attention to the alleged assailant.  One common tactic is to initiate a controlled phone call.  This is a recorded phone conversation between the alleged victim and the suspect.  The victims are instructed on what to say and even during the conversation, get prompts from the detective who is sitting nearby.  The goal is to get the suspect to make some kind of admission.  In the Fletcher teacher’s case, the girl wore a recording device.  This tactic is less common, but is used sometimes.  Police will then attempt to interview the suspect.  If you are approached to “give your side of the story” to police, don’t.  Detectives are allowed, even taught, to lie to potential sex crime suspects.  Common lies include telling the suspect his or her DNA was found on the victim when they have none, or that the victim has injuries that the actually don’t.  It is so important to consult with an attorney who is experienced in Florida sex crimes before talking to anyone else, especially the police.

A Jacksonville police officer is facing several criminal charges stemming from separate alleged incidents.  According to a report in the Florida Times Union, the officer of fourteen years is charged with grand theft, petit theft and official misconduct in Duval County.  Those charges are pending after allegations that the officer was paid for time he did not work in off-duty jobs.  Official misconduct and grand theft are both third degree felonies punishable by up to five years in prison each and the petit theft is a first degree misdemeanor.  The State Attorney’s Office has not made a decision about filing those charges.  There is another allegation of sexual battery in Jacksonville that the prosecutor on the case has made a decision on.  The officer was accused of paying prostitutes to have sex with him while on duty.  One woman told police she was forced to have sex with the police officer, which is considered a sexual battery in Florida.  The State Attorney’s Office has decided not to file this charge because there is no reasonable probability of conviction.

When someone is arrested for any crime, the prosecutor’s office in that county has to make a decision on whether or not to file the charge.  In order for the police to make an arrest in Jacksonville, they must have “probable cause”.  This means, more likely than not, the accused committed a crime.  Once the case lands on a prosecutor’s desk, that prosecutor must decide whether or not they can prove the case beyond all reasonable doubt, which is a much higher standard than an arrest.  When someone is arrested for a felony in Duval County, which all sex charges are, the prosecutor’s office has a period of time to make a decision about what to do.  They can file the felony case as charged, drop the case if there is not enough evidence, or file the case as a misdemeanor.  Assistant state attorneys have a lot of discretion when deciding what to do and that is why it is so important to hire an experienced criminal attorney.  The Jacksonville criminal attorney can gather evidence and meet with the prosecutor to present your side prior to any charges being filed.

A sexual battery in Florida is defined as oral, anal or vaginal penetration, or union with, the sexual organ of another person or an object without the victim’s consent.  Consent is defined as knowing and voluntary, not coerced.  There are also different levels of sexual battery in Jacksonville.  If the accused sexually battered a victim without violence or physical force, the crime is considered a second degree felony, punishable by up to fifteen years in prison and a lifetime of being labeled a sex offender.  If the accused used violence or if the victim was physically incapacitated at the time, the sex crime is elevated to a first degree felony.  “Physically incapacitated” can mean asleep or even drunk, which is obviously subject to interpretation.  Often times, rape cases come down to a he said, she said.

A Jacksonville man accused of a heinous sex crime will be judged by a jury of his peers this coming August.  According to a report on, the man is accused of raping a woman who was pushing her child in a stroller in Bartram Park in February.  A warrant for sexual battery was issued for the man after his DNA was allegedly found on the woman after she was swabbed by a rape kit.  The woman also identified the man after being shown his picture in a police lineup.  The accused has a one million dollar bond for this Jacksonville sex charge.

When someone is arrested for a sexual battery, or any other sex charge in Duval County, they are going to get no bond or a bond so high it will be difficult to make.  When arrested on a warrant, the judge who signed the warrant will usually attach a bond amount to the warrant.  On rare occasions, the judge will leave the bond blank for the judge in first appearance court to set.  No matter what the bond amount is, a Jacksonville bond attorney can motion the court to set a reasonable bond or reduce a high bond.  There are two reasons to set monetary bonds in criminal cases.  The first is if the person is a flight risk.  If the accused does not live in Jacksonville, their appearance bond will be set higher.  The second reason bonds are set high is if the judge deems the accused to be a danger to the community.  When it comes to sex accusations, most judges will set a very high bond even though nothing has been proven in the case.

In the above case, the woman was examined and a rape kit was used.  A medical exam is conducted which includes a whole body check, including documenting of any and all physical injuries and the collection of physical evidence. If the patient reports to law enforcement, the evidence is provided to the appropriate law enforcement agency to be used in criminal prosecution. If the patient chooses not to report, the evidence is stored by law enforcement for a period of time.  The people who examine alleged victims only examine alleged victims.  Their job is to conduct the examinations and to testify for the prosecution in criminal cases.  As an experienced sex crime attorney, I have had many sexual battery cases that include these rape examination reports.  Even if there is no physical injury, not even redness on the woman, the examiners will testify that “most of the time” there is no physical evidence in rape cases.  And, they say, just because there is no physical evidence doesn’t mean there wasn’t an assault.

A man from Ponte Vedra Beach, along with seventeen others, was arrested on various sex charges in Polk County recently.  According to a report in on First Coast News, Polk County initiated Operation April Fools, which is a sting to catch sex predators.  Detectives posed as minors, or guardians of minors, trying to seduce men into coming to meet the minor for sex.  The news reports that some men brought birth protection and drugs to a house they thought housed a child waiting for sex.  Some men allegedly asked for pictures from the “child” and many sent nude pictures of themselves.  The men were arrested, in total, for over 100 sex or sex related crimes in Florida.

Almost every month, counties in Florida set up these stings, often referred to as “traveler” stings.  Local police set up an online advertisement, often times on Craigslist, with a general title not specifying the person posting is a child.  Once a man contacts the poster, the sex detective posing as a child will message back to the man telling him they are a child.  Most times, they ask if the man minds being with a younger person.  This first messaging contact is all recorded to be used in the future prosecution.  The conversations then move to cell phones with back and forth texting. These dialogues are also recorded for further use by law enforcement.  Text messaging is where photographs are sent back and forth.  The police even have pictures of the “minor” ready to send. These pictures are of a younger looking adult so the men don’t get get spooked. After the back and forth texting, some agencies set up a phone call with the suspect.  Eventually, a meeting is scheduled and as soon as the man shows up, they are arrested.

Law enforcement usually rents a house in a residential neighborhood for the meetings.  They set up video cameras outside and inside the house.  The men are filmed driving up to the house and walking to the door.  A young girl, or boy, will answer the door and as soon as the man walks in, they are thrown to the ground by police officers and handcuffed.  The men are then taken to a room that is set up with a video camera and are read their rights.  If the men don’t invoke their right to remain silent, they begin to answer questions about the situation and why they were there.  After the interview, the men are taken to jail.