Bill Cosby, the comedian who broke racial barriers as America’s Dad, was convicted of drugging and molesting a woman. Cosby is the first celebrity trial of the #MeToo era and was convicted on three counts of felony indecent aggravated assault. Cosby, who is 80 years old, faces 10 years of prison time on each count. The jury at Cosby’s first trial deliberated over six days for more than 52 hours, according to a CBS News report, without being able to reach a verdict. The plaintiff in the case, Andrea Constand, filed suit alleging Cosby sexually assaulted her in his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. Cosby alleged the sexual encounter was consensual. Cosby’s lawyer, the same attorney who won an acquittal in Michael Jackson’s 2005 child-molestation case, said they would be appealing the decision. In the re-trial, the prosecution claimed Cosby had a history of drugging women and preying on them sexually. Five other women aside from Constand testified they had also been drugged and assaulted.
What is Consent in Florida?
The way in which Florida law defines “consent” can make getting justice through the legal system for some sexual assault victims more difficult than for victims in other states, depending on the circumstances. Specifically, state law defines consent as “intelligent, knowing and voluntary consent, and does not include coerced submission.” Notably, under Florida law, consent cannot be construed or deemed to mean the failure of the alleged victim to physically resist the aggressor. Put simply, if an unwilling or reluctant person is talked into saying “yes,” that still does not qualify as consent. The definition of consent requires freely given consent or affirmative consent.
Proving coerced consent can be difficult because you have to show intent – to get into the victim’s head and prove he or she was scared or being influenced to consent. Under Florida law, a person must be at least 18 years of age to give consent.
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When Consent is Not Present
When drugs and/or drinking are involved, as it was in the Cosby case, consent also becomes an issue. Mentally incapacitated under state law means someone’s temporary inability to understand or control his or her own conduct due to the influence of drugs, alcohol, or another substance administered without his or her consent.
A person’s ability to provide consent as defined by state law may also be impaired if the victim has a developmental disability and/or mental incapacity. There are increased penalties for sexual battery carried out on a person whom the accused knew or has reason to believe to have a mental disease or defect that renders him or her temporarily or permanently incapable of understanding the nature of his or her conduct.
Physical helplessness also affects consent. This may include someone who is unable to communicate unwillingness to an act such as being unconscious, asleep, or any other physical limitation.
The way in which Florida law defines “consent” can make getting justice through the legal system for some sexual assault victims more difficult than for victims in other states, depending on the circumstances.
Orlando Sexual Assault Attorneys
Sexual assault is devastating – physically, emotionally, and psychologically – for the victim and his or her loved ones. Understand that you do not need to suffer in silence. The experienced litigators at Bogin, Munns & Munns have defended the rights of victims harmed by others for more than 35 years and can help you through the legal hurdles during this difficult time. Schedule an initial case evaluation with one of our attorneys.
NOTICE: The article above is not intended to serve as legal advice, and you should not rely on it as such. It is offered only as general information. You should consult with a duly licensed attorney regarding your Florida legal matter, as every situation is unique. Please know that merely reading this article, subscribing to this blog, or otherwise contacting Bogin, Munns & Munns does not establish an attorney-client relationship with our firm. Should you seek legal representation from Bogin, Munns & Munns, any such representation must first be agreed to by the firm and confirmed in a written agreement.