From a blurb on the CBS news website, 18-year-old Kaitlyn Hunt was arrested and charged with having a sexual relationship with an underage high school classmate.
The senior at Sebastian high school in Florida, started having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old freshman until the freshman’s parents found out. They contacted the police and Kaitlyn was charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious battery of a child 12 to 16 years of age.
Kaitlyn Hunt’s parents responded by setting up various facebook pages and other online groups to demand charges get dropped. Other groups, such as the ACLU have hinted that the prosecution of this case is homophobia and that the 14-year-old’s parents are lashing out at Ms. Hunt and accusing her of “changing” their little girl.
Neither the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office or the 19th circuit prosecutors are backing down.
“If this was an 18-year-old male and that was a 14-year-old girl, it would have been prosecuted the same way,” Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar said at a press conference.
“The idea is to protect people in that vulnerable group from people who are older, 18 and above,” Bruce Colton, state attorney for Florida’s 19th circuit, said, according to the station. “…The statute specifically says that consent is not a defense.”
Mr. Colton went on to say that they have no plans to drop any of the charges based on the petitions. However, as is common with these types of cases, the Indian River County State Attorney’s Office has offered Kaitlyn Hunt a plea bargain. The Defendant has until this Friday to accept a reduced charge of child abuse in exchange for two years of house arrest and one year of probation. Most importantly, Kaitlyn Hunt would not have to register as a sex offender.
First, a handy guide: Florida’s laws on age of consent
Anyone younger than 16 cannot consent to sexual contact.
A 16- or 17-year-old can consent to have sex with someone who is 18 to 23 years old.
Anyone under 18 years old cannot consent to have sex with someone 24 years or older.
Lewd and Lascivious Battery is found under Florida Statute 800.04(5)(c)2. It is a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. There are very few defenses to such a charge if the victim is underage. The victim’s consent is not a defense. The victim lying to the defendant about his/her age is not a defense.
What the Indian River County prosecutor did is not unusual in these types of cases. In 2007 Florida passed what is now known as the “Romeo and Juliet” law which allows those charged with consensual teenage sex to petition the court to stay off the sex offender registry.
Finally, what of the allegations that Kaitlyn Hunt is being treated differently because of her sexual orientation? Most local Tampa attorneys disagree.
Charles Lambert, a Tampa attorney who has had similar cases, including a same-sex relationship involving boys, said “some attorneys were debating this yesterday and the general consensus was that we don’t see a big difference in how these cases are prosecuted based on gender or sexuality.”
Nicholas Dorsten, a Saint Petersburg criminal defense lawyer, who has handled several of these cases agreed, saying “an 18-year-old man caught with a 14-year-old-girl would have been facing the exact same charge. Normally the prosecution looks at the ages of the parties involved, the facts of the case and what the victim’s family wants”.
Have you or a loved one been charged with a sexual battery or lewd and lascivious conduct? Then call the Clearwater criminal defense lawyers of Blake & Dorsten, P.A. today! The former prosecutors of Blake & Dorsten, P.A. handle all criminal and auto accident cases throughout the Gulf Coast of Florida including Saint Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Pasco, St. Pete Beach, Clearwater Beach, Reddington Beach, Kenneth City, Pinellas Park, and Gulfport.