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Juvenile Sexual Crimes Against a Younger Child

A parent's most important job is to protect their children. Most parents never consider the possibility that their child could behave in a sexually inappropriate manner that would rise to the level of breaking the law. Under Florida law, even children as young as 10 years old can be charged with very serious criminal offenses such as lewd and lascivious molestation, sexual battery, or aggravated sexual battery.

Unfortunately, these type of accusations are all too common. Boys between the age of 13-16 are the most likely to be accused although these accusations can be made against children much younger. Law enforcement officers will go to great lengths to interrogate the child in order to get a confession. 

NEVER let your child talk to anyone about any criminal allegations until after you have spoken to a criminal defense attorney. Although the detective will try and convince you otherwise, it is never in your child's best interest to make incriminating statements before talking with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Also, Investigators from Child Protective Investigations (CPI) might pull your child out of the classroom to question them at school without ever telling the parents. 

The United States Constitution gives your child the right to remain silent under the 5th Amendment and the right to an attorney under the 6th Amendment. We help the child assert both of those rights in writing within the first 20 minutes of being retained in the case so that no one comes to interrogate the child at their home or school.

Despite the fact that others might discourage the child from asserting their rights, we have found that when an accusation is made against the child of a police officer, prosecutor, investigator, or judge, those professionals are the first ones to seek out the services of a criminal defense attorney before allowing their child to make a statement to anyone.

Accusations of sexual misconduct can involve relatively minor and innocent behavior which often involves mere curiosity. Years ago, this conduct was called "playing doctor." Other cases involve far more serious and disturbing behavior which is sexually motivated and can involve violence. In some cases, children begin acting out because they have been a victim of sexual abuse.

Unfortunately, the juvenile justice system is not always good at telling the difference and treating the cases appropriately.


Our Experience Fighting for Children in Juvenile Court

Criminal defense attorney, Leslie Sammis, has experience fighting for children charged with crimes in the juvenile justice system. Ms. Sammis graduated with honors from the University of Florida College of Law in Gainesville, FL, in 1999. She began her career as an Assistant Public Defender in the Sixth Judicial Circuit in Florida, where she was assigned to the juvenile court division representing children on a wide variety of charges including sexually motivated offenses.

Since entering private practice more than fifteen years ago, Ms. Sammis has continued to defend children in juvenile court. Many of these cases involve an accusation against a child accused of inappropriate sexual touching a younger child.

Ms. Sammis is familiar with many of the benefits and pitfalls of various juvenile court programs set up in different jurisdictions in the greater Tampa Bay area including:

  • Tampa in Hillsborough County;
  • Clearwater and St. Petersburg in Pinellas County;
  • Bradenton in Manatee County, Dade City;
  • New Port Richey and Dade City in Pasco County; and
  • Brooksville in Hernando County, FL.

If your child was charged with any crime involving inappropriate sexual behavior such as simple battery, sexual battery or lewd and lascivious molestation involving a younger child, then call 813-250-0500 to set up an office or phone consultation with Leslie Sammis.


Never Allow Your Child to Talk to Law Enforcement Without An Attorney

When the parents become aware of the accusation the parent often makes the mistake of forcing their child to talk to law enforcement. Parents are much better off contacting a juvenile defense attorney to immediately begin an investigation. Any statements made by the child can and will be used against the child in court.

A confession makes it very difficult to fight the case and negotiate a better resolution. The parents can invoke the child's right to remain silent simply by telling the police the child will not talk with law enforcement until an attorney is present.

The parent should also explain to the child that the child has a right to remain silent unless an attorney is present. The child needs to be able to express his desire to remain silent to the police. The child needs to know that it is okay to actually remain silent and not talk about the allegations.

Often these cases for juvenile lewd and lascivious conduct (molestation), sexual battery, or aggravated sexual battery are proven only because of admissions made by the child accused of the misconduct. The child has a constitutional right to remain silent.

By hiring a criminal defense attorney to assist the child with invoking the constitutional right to remain silent the child can be protected against self-incrimination. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm to discuss the fact of the case during a free initial consultation.


Beginning Juvenile Psychosexual Counseling after Allegations of Sexual Misconduct

One of the most important things a parent can do after learning about the accusation is enrolling the child in the best counseling program available to address the allegations of sexual battery, aggravated sexual battery or lewd and lascivious conduct under Florida law. Private psychosexual counseling is usually better and more effective than state fund group counseling.

Additionally, a criminal defense attorney can help the child enroll in an effective counseling program that allows the statements made by the child to remain confidential while the case is pending. By taking a pro-active approach, the parents can often play an active role in helping their child resolve the case as quickly as possible under the most favorable terms.

Additionally, the parents can make sure that the behavior that caused the accusation never happens again. The goal in these cases is to protect the child and help the child understand the consequences of such behavior.


The "System" of Dealing with Sexual Allegations Involving Two Children

Because of the surprising number of these cases, entire local "systems" have been developed that usher the parents, child accused, and victim child through a maze of procedures and hoops. Almost all parents want to do the right thing when such a serious accusation of sexual misconduct is made against their child.

Unfortunately, parents are often confused about how to best protect the child's future and prevent any additional misconduct. Some of these programs are better than others. Understanding the advantages and limitations of each program can help parents make informed decisions about how their child should proceed.

To complicate matters even more, false or exaggerated claims are common. Children, particularly young children, often have a difficult time talking with authority figures about such matters. Any child regardless of age could also be swayed by outside influences that may have some motive to exaggerate the claims.

Even slight exaggerations about the number of acts or the dates when the incidents occurred can have huge implications for the way the case is resolved, and indirect consequences that flow from the disposition.


Helping Juveniles in the Tampa Bay Area With Sexual Misconduct Accusations

We understand the juvenile justice system when it comes to criminal charges against for crimes such as sexual battery, aggravated sexual battery or lewd and lascivious conduct.

We work with some of the best counselors in the greater Tampa Bay area, including the counties of Hillsborough County, Polk County, Hernando County, Sumter County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, Manatee County, and Sarasota County.

We understand the ways to protect the child accused of such a serious sex crime, and the indirect or collateral consequences that can result such as being required to register as a sex offender or sexual predator in the State of Florida or any other state the child may move to in the future.

Additionally, entering any diversion or arbitration program can have serious complications to the child's future educational opportunities because the school officials are notified.


How the Juvenile Justice System in Hillsborough County May Handle the Accusation

In Hillsborough County, the State Attorney's Office will often "approve the charges for community arbitration diversion." After the referral, the Community Arbitration Diversion program will interview the child and often require the child to complete psychosexual counseling (often called "sex offender" counseling).

The juvenile arbitration program in Tampa, Hillsborough County, Florida, is a court diversion program for juveniles who are guilty and plan to make an admission of guilt. Although successful completion of the program will prevent your child from being "adjudicated delinquent of the offense," the child might also be able to avoid an adjudication of delinquency by fighting the charges.

Even if convicted of the offense or a lesser offense at trial, the court may still decide to not adjudicate the child delinquent. In fact, many juvenile defense attorneys in Tampa would argue that such treatment is typical, especially if the child has no prior record or no prior adjudications.


Problems with the Community Arbitration Diversion Program in Hillsborough County

In order to enter the diversion program the child must usually do the following:

  1. Waive the right to a speedy trial;
  2. Admit wrong-doing or "take responsibility" for the allegation;
  3. Complete whatever conditions the diversion program deems appropriate child can include completing counseling, community service and writing letters of apology; and
  4. Agree that information about the allegations and the child's admission can be sent to the child's private or public school so that the school can take whatever action it deems appropriate including suspension or expulsion (after an expulsion hearing).

In many of the juvenile court systems in the Tampa Bay area, including Hillsborough County, Polk County, Pasco County, Pinellas County and Manatee County, in order to enter the program, the child must admit wrong doing and sign a release form.

After the release form is signed, the State Attorney's Office arbitration case worker will write a letter to the child's school telling the school exactly what the child has been charged with. The fact that the child admitted guilt or wrongdoing. And the fact that the child is avoiding an adjudication of delinquency by entering the arbitration program.

After the school receives the letter (even if the alleged contact occurred off school grounds and did not involve another student) the school may take any action it deems appropriate including suspension or expulsion.

For sexually motivated acts, including lewd and lascivious molestation, sexual battery, or aggravated sexual battery both public, private, and magnet schools throughout Hillsborough County often decide permanently suspend or expel the child.

For instance, the Hillsborough County School Board recently approved a new Code of Student Conduct that includes a zero tolerance policy for serious crimes involving weapons, drugs and violence. If a student allegedly commits such an offense, their principal investigates immediately and notifies the student's parents of the circumstances involved. If the principal determines that the student committed the criminal offense, the penalties are: 

  • out of school suspension for ten days;
  • referral of the case to law enforcement; and
  • a recommendation to the School Board for a change of placement or expulsion from school.

Following the criminal accusation against the child for the enumerated offenses, after the suspension then the following steps occur:

  • After a meeting with the parents to discuss the alleged offense, the principal sends a letter notifying the parents that the student is suspended and recommended for a change of placement or expulsion from the Hillsborough County School System;
  • A change of placement hearing is scheduled. Parents receive a letter hand-delivered by the Office of School Security notifying them of the time, date, and location of the hearing. The principal confirms the hearing through a telephone call to parents. Two hearing masters, an attorney, three representatives of the school district services and a security officer comprise the team. The hearing masters conduct the hearing and review records and will assist in the disposition of allegations. The best interests of the child, other children, and the School Board of Hillsborough County are considered.

Related Juvenile Criminal Charges for Sexually Motivated Crimes

Florida law requires the juvenile register as a sexual offender or predator if the juvenile was 14 years of age or older at the time of the offense and was adjudicated delinquent on or after July 1, 2007, for committing, conspiring to commit, soliciting, or attempting and of the following offenses:

  • Sexual Battery under 794.011 (not including subsection (10);
  • Lewd or lascivious battery under 800.04(4)(b) when the victim is under 12 or the court specifically finds the sexual activity was committed by coercion or use of force;
  • Lewd or lascivious battery under 800.04(5)(c)(1) when the victim is under 12 and when the court finds the molestation involved unclothed genitals;
  • Lewd or lascivious battery under 800.04(5)(d) when the victim is over the age of 12 and under the age of 16 when the court finds the use of coercion or force and unclothed genitals; or
  • A similar law of another jurisdiction.

Attorneys for Juvenile Sex Crimes Cases in Tampa, FL

Contact a criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm to discuss any allegation of sexual misconduct made about your child. We work with the child and parents to find the best strategy to address the underlying conduct while still protecting the child from the juvenile justice system.

Juvenile sexual misconduct attorneys for allegations in Tampa and Plant City in Hillsborough County, Clearwater and St. Petersburg in Pinellas County, Brooksville in Hernando County, Bushnell in Sumter County, Bradenton in Manatee County, Sarasota and Venice in Sarasota County, Bartow in Polk County, and New Port Richey and Dade County in Pasco County, Florida.

Call a juvenile defense attorney in Tampa, FL, at 813-250-0500 to discuss your case today.


This article was last updated by Leslie Sammis on Friday, October 21, 2016.