Statutory rape is defined as sexual intercourse or relations involving a person who is below the age of consent. The age of consent varies from state to state. Some states set the age of consent at 16 years old, while others set it at 17 or 18 years old. When a person is charged with statutory rape, they are often confused. Some will claim they didn’t know their accuser’s age, while others were actually in a committed relationship with their accuser.
If you face statutory rape charges, it is important that you immediately seek legal representation. Not only do you face the possibility of prison, but you also face the humiliation and social stigma that comes with registering as a sex offender.
Statutory Rape Defenses
The fact that the relationship was consensual or that the defendant was unaware of the victim's age is not a valid legal defense in statutory rape cases. However, some states have what are known as “Romeo and Juliet laws.” These laws provide protection to teens who have a sexual relationship with someone who is under the age of consent. In these cases, the two party’s ages are usually slightly different.
An experienced attorney can use other defense strategies as well to fight statutory rape charges. These include:
- Marriage: Statutory rape charges have a consensual component, so an exception is made for married couples. Unlike aggravated rape, if an individual under 17 years of age is the spouse of the defendant, then the "age of consent" rule is waived and charges cannot be filed.
- Evidence: The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that statutory rape occurred. Using testimony and gathered facts, a skilled defense lawyer can cast doubt on the victim's testimony.
- Stress: Showing the criminal act was committed under great duress or due to other mitigating circumstance is not likely to get statutory rape charges dropped, but it might help reduce your sentence.
Do you have more questions about legal defenses for statutory rape charges? Contact our West Palm Beach sex crimes attorneys, or call (561) 721-0552 to learn how we can help you today.