Understanding Statutory Rape

In case you or a family member is a victim of statutory rape, you need to consult a criminal lawyer. Rape cases are very tricky, and if you are not persistent, the guilty party could easily get away with the crime. The following is a basic background of what statutory rape entails.

What is Statutory Rape?

This refers to sexual relations that involve someone who is under the age of consent. Under the law, people below the age of consent cannot consent to sexual relations, and anyone who has sex with them is violating the law.

Elements of Statutory Rape

  • No need of force: Those who are below the age of consent cannot consent to sex, and so the act is regarded as a crime regardless of whether force is involved. Therefore, statutory rape applies even if it involves two underage individuals who agree to engage in sexual relations.
  • Age of consent: This age varies depending on the region you are based. However, many laws have the age of consent at 18 years. In the past, statutory rape was a strict liability offense--it did not matter whether the perpetrator thought the victim was of age. Nowadays, some regions tolerate the defense that the accused reasonably believed that the victim was of age. However, in some areas, statutory rape is still regarded as a strict liability offense.

Factors That Affect the Penalties and Offense Charges

There are two factors that affect the degree of the offense for statutory rape: the victim's age and the difference in age between the victim and perpetrator. There are other factors that could be considered such as whether alcohol or drugs were involved, prior sex offenses perpetrated by the offender and if pregnancy resulted.

How is Statutory Rape Punished?

A person charged with statutory rape is charged with a felony, which means they face no less than a year in prison and may be asked to pay a fine. However, this depends on the region where the defendant (perpetrator) is convicted.

Where all participants are underage or where the perpetrator's age is close to that of the minor, some regions use "Romeo and Juliet laws." These laws allow the perpetrator to have a defense against statutory rape charges. In other regions, these laws reduce the punishment by imposing a fine or probation or forsaking the requirement for sex offender registration.

Sex Offender Registration

In some regions, the defendant should undergo sex offender registration. This registration will limit where they live, go to school, work and will require them to report to the authorities regularly. A person registered as a sex offender has their name on a public database that can be accessed by the public.

For more information, contact a solicitor in your area.