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Last Updated on: 15th October 2023, 09:15 am
Statutory rape laws in New York State – and specifically in Westchester County – can be pretty confusing. Let’s break it down in simple terms so we all understand the basics. I’m not a lawyer, just a concerned citizen trying to make sense of these complicated laws.
First off, statutory rape is when an adult has sex with a minor under the age of consent. The age of consent in New York is 17 years old. That means anyone under 17 can’t legally consent to having sex. So if you’re over 17 and have sex with someone under 17, it’s considered statutory rape under the law.
Now here’s where it gets tricky. New York has different degrees of statutory rape charges based on the ages of the people involved. There’s third-degree rape, second-degree rape, and first-degree rape. The charges get more serious as the age difference between the adult and minor grows wider.
A third-degree rape charge in New York applies when someone 21 or older has sex with someone under 17. So let’s say a 21-year old has sex with a 16-year old. That would be considered third-degree rape since the minor is under the age of consent.
Third-degree rape is a class E felony in New York. That means if convicted, the penalties can include probation or up to 4 years in prison. It all depends on the specific circumstances of the case.
Now let’s talk about second-degree rape charges in New York. These apply when someone 18 or older has sex with someone under 15. So if an 18-year old has sex with a 14-year old, they could face a second-degree rape charge.
Second-degree rape is a class D felony in New York. If convicted, it can carry heavier penalties of up to 7 years in prison. Again, the specific sentence depends on the details of the case.
First-degree rape is the most serious statutory rape charge in New York. This applies when someone 21 or older has sex with someone under 13. So if a 25-year old has sex with a 12-year old, they could potentially be charged with first-degree rape.
First-degree rape is a class B felony. If convicted, it can result in a lengthy prison sentence of up to 25 years. It’s considered an extremely serious sex crime under New York law.
Now here’s an important thing to know. New York has “close in age” exceptions for consensual sex between minors. This provides some protections for teens who are close in age who engage in consensual sex.
For example, say a 17-year old willingly has sex with a 16-year old. Even though one person is below the age of consent, the close in age exception prevents the 17-year old from being charged with statutory rape. The age difference is not large enough to trigger charges in this case.
However, these close in age exceptions only apply to consensual situations. They do NOT apply if one person coerced or forced the other person into having sex against their will.
Let’s look at some real-world statutory rape cases that have happened in Westchester County over the past few years:
As you can see, statutory rape cases arise somewhat frequently in Westchester County across different ages and circumstances. The punishments can vary widely depending on exactly what happened.
There are some potential defenses that defendants can raise against statutory rape charges. For example:
However, these defenses don’t always work. The prosecution may argue the adult should have verified the minor’s age or that there’s evidence the sexual contact did occur.
I know we covered a lot of ground here! Statutory rape laws can be super complex when you start digging into the details. The main takeaways are:
If you have any other questions, feel free to ask! I’m always glad to discuss and try to explain these laws in simple, everyday language. The most important thing is keeping our teens and communities safe.
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