What is the Charge of Statutory Rape?
Federal law prevents minors from entering into contracts and making legal decisions. The law views a minor as anyone 18 years or younger. Statutory rape refers to a crime that occurs when someone over legal age has sexual contact or a sexual relationship with someone under the age of consent. As the laws vary from state to state, statutory rape is often a gray area. Many states adopted laws that prevent the court from filing against the older person in the relationship if there were a set number of years separating the two. Those facing potential statutory rape charges should look closely at the law.
The age of consent in the United States is 18 years old, but different states have laws that change the age of consent. In some states, you can have a sexual relationship with someone as young as 16 without violating the law. Other states base the statutory rape laws on the ages of both partners. If the older partner is 21 years old or younger, the prosecution will not bring charges against the older partner. State-specific laws may also allow a sexual relationship with consent from the younger partner’s parent or guardian.
When the Age of Consent Doesn’t Apply
Even states that have specific age of consent laws can disregard those laws in regards to cases involving victims with developmental or emotional disorders. A 17-year-old girl with a mental disease that makes it difficult for her to make decisions on her own cannot have a sexual relationship with someone above the legal age. Many states will also prosecute the older partner if the state can prove that a relationship existed prior to that partner becoming a legal adult.
Other Similar Charges
When you face a statutory rape charge, the court can bundle other charges into that crime. If you ever gave the minor alcohol or illegal drugs, the court can charge you with delinquency of a minor. If you ever took your partner across state lines without the consent of his or her parent, you may also be guilty of a kidnapping charge. The prosecution also has the right to charge with a more serious rape charge, especially if your partner claims that you forced him or her to engage in sexual intercourse or another act with violence or a threat.
Getting the Help You Deserve
Courts can prosecute statutory rape crimes, even if you were unaware of the age of your partner. Many men and women find themselves in hot water after meeting someone in a bar or club and having a sexual relationship with that person. You cannot check the identification of every person you meet and form a relationship with, but if you don’t know the age of your partner, the court can charge you with statutory rape. Once convicted, you typically need to register with the state and the country where you live for a minimum of 10 to 15 years. Working with a qualified lawyer can help you change that charge.
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