Sex between consenting partners can be against the law when one of the individuals is a minor. Even if the minor seemingly agrees to have sex, the law does not give them the legal ability to consent until they reach the age of majority. Sexual intercourse with a person under the age of consent is statutory rape.
An arrest for statutory rape can ruin your reputation. An attorney may be able to help you avoid a criminal conviction and keep your record clean. If you are arrested for statutory rape, contact an experienced sex offense lawyer for legal advice.
Statutory rape involves sexual activity where one of the people involved is below the legal age of consent. Statutory rape laws may fall under different terms, including unlawful sex with a minor, sexual battery, or sexual assault. In general, statutory rape does not involve sex through physical force or threats but it is still considered a violation based on the age of the alleged victim.
The age of consent is the age where someone is legally able to agree to have sex. For an adult, it does not matter if a teenager says they want to have sex, the law only cares about whether the teenager is legally able to consent to sex. The legal age varies by state. For most states, the age of consent is 16 years old or 17 years old. In about 10 states, the age of consent is 18 years old.
Depending on the state, statutory rape is generally a felony offense. There may be different degrees of statutory rape, based on the age of the victim. Statutory rape of a younger victim generally comes with more severe penalties. As a felony, statutory rape is punishable by up to 5 or more years in prison.
For example, in Alabama, first-degree statutory rape is punishable by life in prison. However, in California, statutory rape is punishable by up to 4 years in prison.
The defendant may also face criminal fines and civil penalties. Fines and civil penalties may amount to thousands of dollars or more.
There are consequences of a felony conviction that may follow the defendant for years. A felony may find it more difficult to get a job, get government benefits, or own a firearm for decades after serving their sentence.
In many states, statutory rape can be a “registerable offense.” Depending on the age of the victim and the age of the defendant, the defendant may have to register as a sex offender. Sex offenders have to register with law enforcement when they are released and will have to re-register every year or anytime they move.
As a sex offender, the defendant’s status and personal information may be available to the public. On the state’s sex offender registry is public, anyone can search and find the offender’s:
There are a lot of misconceptions about statutory rape. Some people think that if the parents of the child are okay with their child being sexually active, then they will not face criminal prosecution. However, the parents don’t have to press charges for statutory rape. Parents may decide to report suspected statutory rape but the prosecutor could file a statutory rape charge even if everyone involved consented to the relationship.
There are defenses to criminal statutory rape charges. In many cases, statutory rape is reported because of a jilted lover, jealousy, or trying to get revenge. However, there may be little to no evidence of any sexual relationship. Statutory rape charges generally require showing the individuals engaged in intercourse or any genital penetration. Heavy petting may not be considered enough for sexual penetration.
A mistaken belief of the minor’s age may also be a defense. If the defendant had a good faith and reasonable belief the minor was of age, it may be a legal defense to statutory rape charges. For example, this could include evidence the defendant met the alleged victim in a bar where patrons are expected to be 21 or older.
There may be some exceptions to sex with a minor charges where the alleged perpetrator is a minor, is within a few years of age as the victim, or where the people involved are married. For example, in Washington state, the age of consent is 16. However, statutory rape laws apply if the victim is 14 or older where the defendant is older by 4 years or more.
Some states have a marital exemption. If a couple is legally married, they may be able to consent to sexual activity with each other even if they are younger than the age of consent.
Being accused of statutory rape can be devastating for your personal and professional life. It may all have been due to a simple misunderstanding. Do not be embarrassed about seeking help for your legal defense. The attorney-client relationship protects your privacy. Contact a criminal defense lawyer for advice.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified statutory rape lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local statutory rape attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.