An 18-year-old high school senior from Sebastian has had her entire world flipped upside down – all because she was involved in a same-sex relationship with a 15-year-old.
On Feb. 16, the 18-year-old was arrested for having a physical relationship with a younger student at her school.
Under Florida law, the teen could face up to 15 years in prison and be forced to register as a sex offender.
However, a plea deal has apparently been offered that would give the teen two years’ house arrest and one year of probation.
The girls were on the basketball team together at their high school. They began dating after the accused turned 18, and allegedly had a sexual relationship.
Once the basketball coach discovered their relationship, the 18-year-old was thrown off the team, expelled from school and the 15-year-old girl’s parents were notified.
The parents of the 15-year-old called police, who then apparently recorded a phone call conversation between the two girls where they discussed their relationship.
The teen has been charged with two counts of felony lewd and lascivious battery on a child ages 12 to 16.
This teen’s arrest has sparked up a lot of controversy. In fact, many people are outraged that the teen was arrested and charged with a sex crime, and in response have created a petition to create awareness regarding her treatment by the Indian River County State Attorney’s Office. The petition, “Free Kate,” at Change.org has already generated more than 140,000 signatures.
Florida law states that engaging in sexual activity with a minor between the ages of 12 and 16 is a felony. This law does not make an exception for minors that consent to a sexual relationship, so the teen in this case could potentially face up to 15 years in prison and be labeled a sex offender if she is convicted. However, Florida has what is called “Romeo & Juliet” laws set in place to reduce the penalties for consenting minors within a certain age of each other.
Florida’s “Romeo and Juliet” laws are not gender-specific, despite the fact that the name implies a male-female relationship. This law protects consenting minors who are within four years of age of each other as long as the youngest partner is at least 14 years old. Now here is where Florida’s “Romeo and Juliet” laws get tricky; even though the accused in this case is within the four year age bracket from her girlfriend, this law will only allow her to petition for her name to be removed from the sex offender registry if she is convicted. The law does nothing to prevent the felony punishment from being enforced. Sadly, even if the teen accepts the plea bargain that has been offered, she would be spending the next two years of her young life under house arrest.
If you or someone you love has been charged with a sex crime in Florida, don’t face these charges alone. A Florida Sex Crimes Attorney at Whittel & Melton can assist you with your charges and point you in the right direction. We can aggressively negotiate and fight for your rights, so contact us today online or call us statewide and toll-free at 866-608-5529.
The staff was very attentive and answered all my questions regarding my criminal case. I was very pleased with the outcome and professionalism. Crystal Vasquez
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