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What Is Statutory Rape?

Statutory rape — often categorized as statutory sexual assault, corruption of a minor, sexual misconduct or unlawful carnal knowledge of a minor — is an offense involving the age of sexual consent. State laws vary in their definition of the crime and whether intercourse is required or other kinds of sexual contact with a minor also constitute statutory rape.

At the federal level, the age of consent is 18, while each state may have its own age of consent. In Maine, for example, the age of consent is 14 if the older participant is near in age, or 16 more generally. However, in North Dakota, the age is consent is 18, without exceptions.

If you engage in sexual activity with a legally defined minor in your respective jurisdiction, you may end up facing charges of statutory rape.

What Is Aggravated Statutory Rape?

Aggravated statutory rape is a legal term used primarily in Tennessee, although other states provide similar charges.

In cases of aggravated statutory rape in Tennessee, the charges require unlawful sexual penetration of the victim by the defendant (or vice versa) as well as the fact that the victim was at least 13 but not older than 18. Further, the alleged offender must be 10 years older than the victim, or older, to qualify.

Statute of Limitations on Statutory Rape

The statute of limitations on statutory rape varies depending on the state. California holds a 3-year statute of limitations on allegations of felony statutory rape, as does Florida.

While federal law allows for no statute of limitations on felony rape violations involving force or violence, statutory rape is almost always prosecuted at the state level.

How Long Can You Go to Jail for if Convicted of Statutory Rape?

If you have been charged with statutory rape and are convicted of the crime, you can receive a prison sentence. You will be considered a sex offender and required to register with state and federal registries that will track your home, work and school addresses.

The criminal penalties for statutory rape are dependent on the ages of the individuals involved in the sexual act, as well as the jurisdiction. If the victim is younger than 13, you will likely face a more serious criminal charge than statutory rape, unless you are also the same age.

New York has several criminal charges related to statutory rape, from first-degree rape (involving a victim younger than 11 years old and a defendant of any age, or a victim younger than 13 years old and an adult) to sexual misconduct (a class A misdemeanor involving a victim younger than 17 years old). The former crime can result in a sentence of up to 25 years in prison, and the latter has a maximum penalty of up to one year county jail time.

Statutory Rape vs. Rape: What’s the Difference?

Statutory rape is different from rape primarily because it focuses on the age of consent rather than just consent. An individual must have reached the age of consent in their particular state in order to participate in consensual sexual intercourse or you could be charged with statutory rape.

Statutory rape is generally considered to be a lesser offense than rape, largely because, in many cases, both participants may consider themselves willing parties to the sexual act. Public backlash to early formations of statutory rape laws forced the creation of near-in-age amendments or laws, often referred to as Romeo and Juliet laws, to prevent teenagers in consensual romantic relationships from being criminalized.

Rape, on the other hand, typically refers to coerced or forced sexual activity, without the victim’s consent.

What to Do if Facing a Statutory Rape Sentence

If you are facing sex crimes charges related to statutory rape, you should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your attorney may be able to help you with the best defense possible to fight the charge.

Statutory rape charges can result in serious penalties if you are convicted of the crime(s), and mandatory registration on a sex offenders list may also be part of the punishment. For these reasons, among many others, it is highly advised that you skilled legal counsel before proceeding to court.

Statutory Rape Legal Defense

Whether you had actual sexual contact with the minor or have been falsely accused, there are defenses available to you. An experienced criminal defense attorney can devise a legal strategy for you and ensure your rights are protected.

Age is of critical importance to establishing statutory rape. Courts will consider the age of the accuser and the accused. The age difference between the accuser and the accused also is influential; the larger the age difference, the more serious the crime.

How a Statutory Rape Defense Attorney Can Help

When you consult a criminal defense lawyer you can:

  • Learn what statutory rape is and the punishment that can be imposed upon conviction
  • Know the elements of the crime that the prosecutor must prove
  • Discuss your possible defenses and legal strategy

Also, an attorney can:

  • Ensure your rights are acknowledged and you receive due process
  • Present motions and arguments that may get the charges against you dismissed
  • Represent you in court
  • Negotiate on your behalf with the prosecutor to obtain reasonable bail, reduced charges, a plea agreement, a lighter sentence, probation or community service
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