Sexual battery legislation unanimously passes in Florida senate

Victory on senate floor may not be enough

Florida representatives work through a legislative session, Wednesday, April 28, 2021, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Wilfredo Lee, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.SB-868, sponsored by State Sen. Linda Stewart (D-Orlando), unanimously passed in the Florida Senate vote Tuesday but there is growing concern the vote will end there.

Stewart, who has been fighting to get the house subcommittees to hear the measure all session, told News 6 she would be very disappointed if the bill fell short.

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“Offenders who take advantage of someone’s incapacitation – whether they caused it or not – should be held accountable,” Stewart said.

The bill clarifies and creates consistency in statutes on what constitutes sexual battery upon a person impaired by drugs or alcohol. Once signed into law, the bill would “hold that an offender commits the aggravated crime if the offender knows, or has reason to believe, the victim is mentally incapacitated due to the ingestion of drugs and or alcohol,” according to the bill.

The current law creates what critics have called a double standard or loophole.

A person faces a standard penalty of a second-degree felony for sexual battery if the offender did not provide the intoxicating drugs or alcohol.

Under Stewart’s proposed revision, the offense would be a first-degree felony, the same as when an individual administers a substance and then sexually batters a mentally incapacitated person.

According to Stewart, nothing in this legislation changes definitions of consent. The state is still required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim did not intelligently, knowingly and voluntarily consent.

“We’re still being challenged on what to do with that on the House side,” Stewart said. “We’re looking for a vehicle to attach it to. That’s where we’re at right now.”

Without a vote in the House, it is very likely the bill will die this session but Stewart has vowed to reintroduce the legislation next session.

About the Author:

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.