Did you know that you could be convicted of a sex crime even if both parties were consenting? In cases of statutory rape, one person is younger than the legal age of consent, which means that they are not legally permitted to have sex — even though they may have agreed to do so. Statutory rape is different from all other sex crimes because it does not necessarily involve violence, force or coercion. As a consequence, many young people find themselves in legal hot water in North Carolina simply because they engaged in a sex act with someone who was underage.
Statutory rape is sometimes considered a “strict liability” offense, which means that the older person could still suffer criminal consequences even if he or she believed that the other party was old enough to consent to sex. That is, if a 15-year-old girl believably represented herself as age 19 — and then she had sex with an adult — the adult would still be prosecuted. In many states, ignorance of the younger person’s age is not a valid defense; this is particularly true if the younger person is under the age of 14.
What kinds of punishment could you be facing because of statutory rape? Two factors play a critical role in the outcome of such a sex crimes case. First, the age of the victim is considered. Next, the age of the defendant is compared to that of the victim. Prior sex offenses may also be considered, along with the potential presence of alcohol or drugs.
Punishment for statutory rape is just as serious as that afforded to other sex crimes. Defendants can face probation, fines, jail time and even mandated mental health treatment. You may also be required to register as a sex offender. These stakes are high; an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you make decisions that are likely to optimize the outcome of your statutory rape case.
Source: FindLaw, “Statutory Rape” Oct. 15, 2014