The #MeToo movement has brought a wave of public attention to claims of sexual assault, abuse and harassment in a wide range of settings. It’s also come with increasingly vocal calls to revamp the way that those accusations are handled. That includes in Florida, where at least one state lawmaker is looking at ways to make it easier for alleged rape victims to take action.
State Representative Adam Hattersley (D-Hillsborough) recently introduced legislation that would eliminate the statute of limitations in sexual assault cases. Florida law currently requires many sex crimes to be prosecuted within eight years of the alleged offense. But Hattersley says there are a number of reasons why victims may be hesitant to come forward and point the finger.
“Survivors and law enforcement, scientists and researchers, as well as the vast majority of survivor advocates all agree that the effects of sexual assault last not for days, but for lifetimes,” Hattersley said in a press conference announcing the bill. “It is time for us to stand up and say no more. Not. On. Our Watch.
The legislation would eliminate new time restrictions for many sexual assault and other similar cases. It would also encourage Florida law enforcement efforts to be trained in an investigation protocol called the Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview. FETI is what Hattersley calls a “victim-centric” approach to investigating certain sex crimes, which is designed to be an interview rather than an interrogation.
“It eliminates the traditional and unconscionable interrogation of the victim, and replaces it with a victim-centric approach that enables them to piece together the facts of their attack without shame or humiliation,” Hattersley said. “It also helps investigators piece together better narratives that can be used as compelling and convincing testimony in court.”
Sexual assaults involving victims under the age of 16 currently have no statute of limitations time restrictions under Florida law. The state legislature in 2015 doubled the statute of limitations for other sexual assaults from four to eight years.
As Hattersley’s bill makes clear, Florida lawmakers, cops and prosecutors take sexual assault and other sex crimes very seriously. Whether its internet solicitation, child pornography or rape, these offenses carry significant possible money penalties and prison time.
It is vital that anyone charged with—or even suspected of—these offenses seek the counsel of an experienced Florida sex crimes attorney. An experienced criminal lawyer can help you start building a possible defense immediately. Sometimes that may be even before any charges have been filed.
The Florida sex crimes attorneys at Whittel & Melton represent clients throughout the Sunshine State who have been charged with a wide variety of offenses. Our attorneys work proactively to fight these charges head on. We have offices throughout the state, including in Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and Pensacola. Contact us online or call (866) 608-5529 for a free evaluation.
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