Sexual assault victims rarely feel safe coming forward due to the consequences that are often levied at the defendant. Florida law perpetuates the fact that an intoxicated victim is more at fault for their assault than a sober or roofied one, making it even harder for victims to speak up.
Flordia Sexual Assault Law
As of writing this, Flordia’s sexual assault law states that assaulting a person who is intoxicated of their own accord isn’t as severe of a crime as roofieing a person and attacking them.
If a perpetrator were to rape an intoxicated person, they would be charged with a second-degree penalty, punishable up to 15 years in prison. If a perpetrator were to spike a person’s drink and then assault them, they would be charged with a first-degree penalty, punishable up to 30 years.
Florida state law currently classifies sexual assault as oral or genital rape and sexual battery. Sexual battery is further classified as a nonconsensual malicious attack on another person.
Flordia’s “Rape Loophole”
In January 2022, Bill SB 868 was proposed in Flordia’s senate to close the “rape loophole.” Supporters of said bill wish to raise the penalty for sexual assault against an intoxicated victim to the same level of punishment as those who roofie/drug a victim’s drink before attacking.
The Senate bill won unanimously and received backing by both Republican and Democratic representatives. Although the 38-0 vote would lead you to think that the House considered this bill a good idea, it’s believed by some lawmakers that both crimes should be treated differently.
What to Do if You’re Accused of Sexual Assault
If you were accused of sexual assault, hire an experienced sex crimes attorney. A sex offense conviction can cause you to face jail time, fines, and job loss. A criminal law attorney can independently research your case, work to have your charges reduced, and fight bail reductions.
The Senate’s Reluctance
Sen. Jeff Brandes doesn’t think that increasing the punishment’s severity would be an effective deterrent to reduce rape. In an interview, he stated that he didn’t see a rationale that would justify the penalty increase and that defendants of rape often don’t know the penalty for their crimes.
Sen. Jason Pizzo said in an interview that there’s a distinct difference between roofieing a victim and sexually assaulting someone “you’re not sure” is too intoxicated to consent. Rep. Chuck Brannan didn’t schedule a hearing on the bill and won’t respond to messages about the issue.
No New Information
Although the senate unanimously agreed to pass the bill through to the next stage, there haven’t been any updates in regards to SB 868 since March 14th, 2022. Its current status reads “Died in Message,” which means the bill has “died” while exchanging hands/moving to the next step.
In other words, the bill has “hit the wall” and won’t pass. While the bill may appear next season, it isn’t likely. Vocal opposition to SB 868 is taking center stage, regardless of its apparent need.
Katrina Duesterhaus, an advocate for bill SB 868 and sexual assault survivor, is worried about the message this sends to young college students. According to studies, women aged 18 to 24 are 3 to 4 times more likely to experience sexual violence, and most crimes go unreported.
Rep. Anna Eskamani is also concerned, as senate members are refusing to meet with sexual assault victims and hear their stories. Sen. Linda Steward acknowledges the need for this bill, as she explains that 1 in 6 freshmen are raped, an unfortunately high but very real statistic.