Statutory Rape: A Serious Yet Confusing Crime

Statutory Rape

It is a generally agreed-upon fact that the law must protect children from sexual abuse. Statutory rape is one such situation where the law aims to help prevent teenagers from sexual situations with adults.

The idea behind these laws is that there is a certain age at which a person is mentally able to consent to sexual activity. The issue with these laws is that nobody can seem to agree on the age at which this occurs. Every state has its own definition and rules.

If you are facing a statutory rape charge, it is essential that you seek legal help from an attorney who has experience in criminal law. Only a trained legal professional will be able to understand the legal aspects of your situation.

The Definition of Statutory Rape

Statutory rape is when a person over the age of consent has sexual intercourse with a person under the age of consent. Each state sets its own threshold, and while most of them set it at 18 years old, there are exceptions.

Statutory rape is a strict liability crime, which means that if you break your state’s statutory rape law, you can face charges regardless of the circumstances. You cannot defend your actions by saying the other person consented, and except for very few exceptions, you cannot claim that you did not know the other person’s real age.

This type of charge also does not require force. It can happen between two willing participants. It completely depends on age.

Not all states refer to this as statutory rape, which is an outdated term. However, the crime is the same, even if the terminology is not. Depending on the state and the circumstances, you could face a charge that is a misdemeanor or a felony.

Age of Consent and Age Difference

It is important to understand the age of consent because it is what is at the heart of any statutory rape charge. The age of consent is the age at which each state decides a person can consent to sexual activity.

Some states focus on the difference in the ages of the two people rather than the age of consent. The age differential is the difference in the ages of you and the other person. For example, if you are 18 and your partner is 14, then your age differential is four years.

Federal law does not specify an age of consent. Instead, it is a crime to have sex with someone who is four or more years younger than you if that person is between the ages of 12 and 16.

Here are some examples of the statutory rape laws in various states:

  • California
    • Age of consent: 18
    • Age difference: Two years, but the defendant must be under the age of 19 and still in high school to avoid charges
  • Florida
    • Age of consent: 18
    • Age difference: None
  • Texas
    • Age of consent: 17
    • Age difference: Three years
  • Alabama
    • Age of consent: 16
    • Age difference: Two years
  • Georgia
    • Age of consent: 16
    • Age difference: None
  • Hawaii
    • Age of consent: 16
    • Age difference: Five years
  • Ohio
    • Age of consent: 16
    • Age difference: None

Examples of Situations That Might Be Criminal

Knowing when a situation becomes a crime is incredibly difficult. Not only do states’ laws differ radically, but also there are some gray areas where you may think you are fine, but you are actually breaking the law.

For example, if you are 18 years old and dating a 15-year-old in Ohio, then you could face statutory rape charges because Ohio law says that if someone is under 16, then you cannot have a sexual relationship with that person if you are 18 or older. However, if you live in Texas, you are not breaking the law because, in that state, the age difference rule says you are okay because there is not more than a 3-year difference in your ages.

Here’s another situation that shows how tricky these laws can be: You are dating a 16-year-old in Alabama, and you were 18, but you just had a birthday. Since you are now 19 and dating a 16-year-old, you could face charges because the law states that there cannot be more than a two-year age difference.

In that same situation, though, if you live in Hawaii, then you would be fine. The law in this state allows for a five-year age difference.

Both of these states have an age of consent set at 16, but the age difference rules are what makes the act illegal in one state and not the other.

How an Attorney Can Assist You in Statutory Rape Charges

You need an attorney if you face statutory rape charges because this is a complicated situation. Not only do you need to know your state’s laws but you need to understand how they apply in your specific legal situation. An attorney will have the experience and knowledge to properly build your case.

Furthermore, defending against this charge is incredibly difficult. Most states offer very limited options for a defense. Some states may have marriage exemptions, so if you are married to the other person, then you could possibly avoid charges.

Some states also have what they call Romeo and Juliet laws that make allowances for people close in age. Any state with an age difference rule has this type of exception. However, they may not apply in all situations as it depends on how the court interprets the law. In addition, most states do not apply such exemptions to same-sex relationships because of the legal wording, which specifies the two individuals must be of opposite genders.

You cannot use consent as a defense unless you can apply the law so that consent would be valid. Most of the time, saying you had consent will not work.

You also cannot use the defense that you didn’t know the person’s real age in most situations. It is your responsibility to verify the age. To prove an honest mistake despite doing your due diligence to uncover the real age of the person is difficult and may not stand up in every court.

Perhaps the best argument for using an attorney is that some states take a very harsh stance on statutory rape. You will most likely end up on the sex offender registry. In addition, here’s a look at how long you could spend behind bars in some states:

  • California: Up to four years in prison
  • Florida: Up to 15 years in prison
  • Texas: Up to 20 years in prison
  • Alabama: Carries up to life in prison
  • Georgia: Up to 20 years in prison
  • Hawaii: Up to 20 years in prison
  • Ohio: Up to five years in prison

Work With an Experienced Local Lawyer

To avoid the stigma and the potential prison sentence that comes along with a statutory rape charge, you need proper legal representation. Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!

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