Supreme Court Reinstates Additional Molestation Charge in Case of Stepfather’s Rape of Stepdaughter

A man charged on multiple counts based upon one incident of sexual contact with his underage stepdaughter saw the state’s highest court conclude that he could be convicted of two different offenses based upon the single occurrence, because each crime related to a separate and distinct act. Because the second criminal act was not an incidental and unavoidable byproduct of the first, conviction for each crime was permissible and not a double jeopardy violation.

Eric Drawdy stood trial in Polk County for allegedly raping his teenage stepdaughter. The state pursued not only a rape charge, but tacked on a molestation charge for improper touching of an underage girl’s breasts or buttocks. According  the stepfather sexually penetrated the stepdaughter and also touched the girl’s breasts under her shirt. The trial court convicted on both charges.

The Second District Court of Appeal, however, ruled in favor of the stepfather on the molestation charge. The appeals court determined that only an offender with “acrobatic” abilities could perform intercourse without touching a victim’s breasts or buttocks. This, along with the absence of a gap in time between the two illegal contacts in the stepfather’s case, meant that both of the acts were actually part of one “criminal episode,” and stacking two convictions from that one episode violated the constitutional protection against double jeopardy.

In a unanimous decision, however, the Florida Supreme Court reinstated both convictions. The court decided that the appeals court’s analysis simply didn’t fit the facts. While a perpetrator might incidentally contact a victim’s breasts or buttocks during the commission of a rape (and presumably might present a double jeopardy problem), that was not the state’s theory, nor the facts, of the molestation charge against Drawdy. Rather, the state obtained testimony from the victim that the stepfather touched her breasts under her shirt and that she never removed her shirt during the rape.

Given that the victim never removed her shirt, the stepfather’s contact with the girl’s breasts could not have been incidental contact occurring as part of the rape act; but must have been “separate and distinct.” Because two independent acts occurred (the act of penetration that triggered the rape conviction, and the stepfather’s act of going underneath the victim’s shirt and touching her breasts, which yielded the molestation conviction), and the touching that produced the molestation conviction was not an unavoidable aspect of the rape act, double jeopardy did not bar the state from pursuing the stepfather for each act.

The facts in this offender’s case showed that he committed independent acts that allowed for prosecution on each act. Nevertheless, in some cases, the state may attempt to piggyback multiple charges based on what is really just one criminal transaction. If you’re facing criminal charges, mounting a full defense involves several techniques, one of which is ensuring that the state is not pursuing more charges against you than the law allows. To ensure that you have capable representation aiding you, contact Sophia Martinez. Our attorneys have the skill and experience to help you protect your rights and put forward the best defense possible.

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