State v. J.A. – First Degree Rape
The term “statutory rape” can have different meanings in various states and contexts. In some states, statutory rape is defined as any sexual act involving a person under the age of 18. Other states define the offense based on the ages of the alleged perpetrator and alleged victim. As such, if you are facing any kind of criminal charges related to statutory rape in North Carolina, it is critical to understand the specific elements of the charges you are facing and begin working with an experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney who can develop a defense strategy based on the facts of your particular case.
Statutory rape charges are often misunderstood, and our North Carolina statutory rape defense lawyers want to make sure you have the information you need as you start looking for legal representation and considering the options available to defend yourself against the charges you are facing. The following are 10 things you should know about statutory rape charges in North Carolina, including critical information about the elements of various statutory rape charges in the state and the consequences you may face if you are convicted.
There is no single statutory rape charge under North Carolina law. Rather, in North Carolina, statutory rape laws include a number of sex offenses related to an adult engaging in sex acts with a minor. Those laws include but are not limited to the following:
Depending upon the particular facts of the case, defendants who are facing statutory rape charges may face more than one of the charges listed above.
As you can see from the above descriptions of statutory sex offenses under North Carolina law, the age of the alleged victim and the age of the defendant can make a significant difference in determining the specific charges. Some types of statutory rape and related offenses can only occur when the alleged victim is 12 years old or younger, and others can only occur when the alleged victim is 15 years old or younger.
In some of the offenses described above, the age difference between the alleged victim and the defendant can impact the seriousness of the offense charged and the possible penalties upon conviction. For example, in the crime of “statutory rape of a person 15 years old or younger,” the offense is charged as a Class B1 felony when the defendant is six years or more older than the alleged victim. However, the offense is charged as a Class C felony when the defendant is between four and six years older than the alleged victim. Similarly, the same distinctions apply to the crime of “statutory sexual offense with a person who is 15 years old or younger.”
North Carolina has a particular criminal offense for statutory rape and related charges involving a teacher and a student. Under North Carolina law (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-27.32), any of the following individuals may face charges for “sexual activity with a student” if the employee is at least four years older than the student and engages in vaginal intercourse or another sexual act with that student:
The penalties upon conviction of statutory rape and other sex offenses we have outlined can vary depending upon the specific offense charged but generally speaking these offenses are almost always felony offenses. Possible penalties can include:
All statutory sex offense convictions in North Carolina, from statutory rape to the other offenses we have discussed here, require registration on the Sex Offender Registry. Indeed, any “reportable conviction” requires registration, and a number of sex offenses involving minors not mentioned here require registration, such as sexual exploitation of minors or taking indecent liberties with children. In short, if you are convicted of an offense that the state of North Carolina considers to be either a sexually violent offense or an offense against a minor, you will be convicted of a “reportable conviction.”
It is important to note that being in a relationship with the minor who is the alleged victim, or having consent from the minor, are not defenses to statutory rape offenses. Accordingly, you cannot avoid registration on the Sex Offender Registry because the alleged victim consented to the sexual act or because you were in a relationship.
Multiple defense strategies may be available in your case, such as:
As mentioned above, it is critical to understand that consent is never a defense to statutory rape. While it may be a defense to other sex offenses, the question of consent is not at issue in these cases since the offense is based only on the age and sexual act of the parties. Similarly, being in a relationship with the alleged victim is not a defense.
The statutory rape and related offenses discussed here can result in substantial penalties that often include sentences of imprisonment. Yet it is critical to understand that the consequences of a statutory rape conviction will extend well beyond the terms of the sentence. Once you have served your sentence, you will need to register on the Sex Offender Registry, which means your conviction will be searchable to anyone in your neighborhood, your place of employment, your child’s school, and anywhere else.
In addition, anyone who is a registered sex offender will not be able to live within 1,000 feet of a childcare center or a school, meaning that your housing options will be impacted by your conviction. Furthermore, you may be denied certain loans and credit, and you will likely be ineligible for a significant number of jobs.
While many criminal offenses are eligible for expungement under North Carolina law, you should know that statutory sex offenses cannot be expunged under any circumstances. A petition for expunction under state law can only be filed for an eligible offense, and the law makes clear that any conviction that requires registration as a sex offender is ineligible. Accordingly, if you are convicted of any of the statutory sex offenses discussed here, the conviction will remain on your criminal record for the rest of your life. The conviction cannot be hidden from future employers, colleagues, or neighbors, even after you are no longer required to register on the Sex Offender Registry.
Given the great number of significant consequences listed above, you should never attempt to build your own defense without help from an experienced criminal defense attorney. The stakes are simply too high to move forward without an aggressive and experienced lawyer on your side. Our firm can talk with you today about how we tailor defense strategies to meet the needs of our clients, and we can further explain relevant defense strategies for your case once we have an opportunity to assess the facts.
Anytime you are facing charges related to sex offenses, including statutory rape offenses, it is essential to have an aggressive North Carolina criminal defense lawyer on your side. As we emphasized above, the consequences of a conviction can extend far beyond any initial term of imprisonment, potentially requiring registration on the Sex Offender Registry for the rest of your life, as well as a wide variety of social and cultural consequences. You need to do everything you can to develop a strong defense to the charges you are facing in order to avoid a conviction. Do not wait to contact a criminal defense lawyer.
Whether you have just been arrested or you have already been charged with a sex offense related to statutory rape, our firm can evaluate your case in order to determine the best possible defense strategies given the particular facts surrounding your arrest. Contact The Roberts Law Group, PLLC today to begin working with an experienced Raleigh criminal defense attorney.
State v. J.A. – First Degree Rape
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State v. J.A. – First Degree Rape
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