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Any Person Charged with Statutory Rape can still Defend Himself/Herself in Court

Rape or forcible rape is a major crime in many jurisdictions. It is totally non-consensual and is accomplished through the use of force and/or weapon. Though also considered a crime, statutory rape is non-violent and an act between consenting individuals. It is considered a crime ,however, because one of the participants in the act is a person below the legal age of consent (which may be 16, 17 or 18, depending on the state where it was committed). Since on of the participants is below the legal age of consent, statutory rape is, therefore, also called rape of a child, aggravated sexual battery, sexual exploitation of a minor or solicitation of minor. This sexual crime carries very harsh punishments, including large fines, years in jail and, in many states, a mandatory lifetime registration as a sex offender.

Statutory rape statutes are aimed at protect minors from sexual predators. Despite this noble intention, however, it cannot be denied that many of these statutes have unintended consequences due to many legal gray areas. One example is charging with statutory rape two teenagers who engage in consensual sex simply because both are just 15 years old. Though underage, they can both be convicted and possibly even be required to register as sex offenders for life.

Many states have passed the “close in age exemptions,” to save many teenagers from statutory rape prosecution and conviction. This law that will not criminalize: (i) two individuals under the age of consent if they have sexual relationship with one another; or, (ii) an older individual who has a sexual relationship with a person who is under the age of consent. There is a limit in this “close in age exemptions,” though.

  • In Delaware, for example, where the age of consent is 18, a person who is either 16 or 17 years old is still legally allowed to consent with an older partner, so long as this partner is under the age of 30. however, those under the age of 12 may not consent under any circumstances (ages of minors and older partner vary from state-to state, thus, it is very important that one knows the differences in allowed age).
  • Marriage exemption. This allows a young individual to consent, but only to his/her spouse.
  • Close in age exemption of four years. This means that a person under the age of consent may consent to an older partner who in no more than four years older than him/her.

On the other hand, older individuals (such as teachers, guardians, government workers, or others who have position or authority) who take advantage of minors, face more extreme punishment if proven guilty.

There are instances, however, when a person had reason to believe that the one who consents to him/her is over the age of consent when, in fact, he/she is not. This can be due to a fake I.D. or when a person lies about his/her age. Whatever the case, anyone charged with statutory rape should understand that this is one serious offense that can ruin many years of his/her future if he/she is convicted. A conviction will require that his/her name, current address, and picture be displayed in the Internet, that is, registered into the national sex offender registry, for all to see and judge.

The law firm Horst Law explains that, “As frightening as the immediate consequences of a conviction for any sexual offense are, another cause for serious concern is that a conviction will directly affect the way you are able to live the rest of your life. Since you will have to register as a sex offender if you are convicted, the outcome of this case is likely to affect your employment opportunities, living arrangements, and conceivably even your personal relationships.” Though all these can be overwhelming, a person charged with a sexual offense should remember that he/she has not been convicted of anything yet. More importantly, he/she will still be able to defend himself/herself and his/her reputation in court with the help of an experienced attorney.