Statutory rape is sexual intercourse or sexual relationship involving an adult and minor. The person is considered a minor because they are below the age of consent. The term “age of consent” refers to the age a person can legally have sex without violating state law. The age of consent varies from depending on the jurisdiction. In most states, the age of consent is 16 years old. However, in other states an individual 17 or 18 years old may be of age to consent to engaging in sexual relations with an adult.
Statutory Rape Doesn’t Include Force
The difference between statutory rape and rape is the use of force and consent. Rape is defined as forcing another person to engage in sexual intercourse without their consent. Statutory rape doesn’t involve forcing a minor to engage in sexual relations. The minor may freely consent or pursue the adult. However, the minor, because of their age, cannot give legal consent to participate in any relationship with a person older than they are.
Penalties for Statutory Rape
The specific penalty for statutory rape depends on the jurisdiction. In general, the crime can be a misdemeanor with the penalty of about one year in county jail. In another jurisdiction, it may be a high-level felony. A felony has the penalty of years in state prison.
Factors will determine the level of the statutory rape offense. The first is the age of the victim. For instance, if the minor is 12 years old, the penalty may be higher than if they were 15 years old.
The second factor is the age difference between the minor and adult. Sometimes the accused is considered an adult, but they may be a minor too. This often happens when two individuals attend the same high school and they enter into a relationship. For instance, a 17 year old junior dating a 15-year-old freshman is considered an adult and can be accused of statutory rape. When determining the level of the offense, their closeness in age will be considered.
Other factors such as any prior sex convictions, drug use in the relationship and pregnancy that results from the relationship are considered in whether it is a felony or misdemeanor.
Besides jail or prison time, other penalties for a statutory rape conviction includes fines, probation and mandated treatment. Some jurisdictions require the offender to register as a sex offender.
Statutory Rape Used to Have No Defenses
The term “statutory” refers to the accused being strictly liable for their actions. This means they should have known the individual was underage prior to entering a relationship with them. Thus, the person accused of statutory rape was automatically guilty. It didn’t matter if the minor pursued them or pretended to be older than their true age. The accused was responsible for finding out their true age and staying away from the minor.
However, in some jurisdictions, a limited number of defenses are available to prove a person’s innocence in a statutory rape case.
Consult a Defense Attorney Regarding Your Statutory Rape Case
Some states now allow a defendant to use the defense of not knowing the true age of the minor. Another defense is the “Romeo and Juliet” defense which contends that both individuals were underage at the time of the relationship. Thus, they accused can’t be convicted. The defense can eliminate the charge or lessen the severity of the penalty.
It is important to talk with a criminal defense attorney about the possible defenses in their jurisdiction. The attorney will also determine the best way to get the statutory rape charge dropped or fight it in court.
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