Statutory rape is a type of sex crime. In this article, we’ll define the term “statutory rape” and discuss the laws in the United States that relate to it.
Statutory rape is sexual intercourse with a person under the age of consent. Whether or not the victim is willing, this still constitutes rape under the law. Statutory rape does not require force or threat. The issue lies in the fact that minors are not legally capable of consenting to sexual intercourse. Thus any sexual activity with an underage person is seen as coercive.
Note that statutory rape is a generic, not a legal term. Different jurisdictions use different legal terms for the crime including:
Each state has its own laws about at what age a person can legally consent to sex. Most states set it at 16, 17, or 18 years old. The goal of laws against statutory rape is to protect people who are considered to be too immature to make an informed decision about sex.
Historically, statutory rape is a strict liability offense, meaning that it is charged whether or not the offender knew that the victim was too young to consent. However, some states permit a “mistake of fact” defense in which the defense can argue that the accused honestly believed their partner was above the age of consent.
The typical punishment for statutory rape includes:
Factors that may affect the severity of the sentence include:
Some states have “Romeo and Juliet Laws” that define different rules if the offender is close in age to the minor. In some states, it is not considered statutory rape if the actor is within a certain number of years in age to the minor. In other, it lowers the offense from a felony to a misdemeanor.
If you have been charged with statutory rape, it’s important to hire an experienced sexual assault lawyer who has worked on statutory rape cases in the past. They will be able to build a defense in order to argue for an acquittal or the lowest possible penalty.