Statutory Rape Charges
Sex crimes are extremely serious issues. When a person is charged and convicted of a sex crime, it will permanently affect their life. Understandably, judges and juries tend to be very harsh on sex crimes defendants during the sentencing process. Statutory rape is a specific type of sex crime that is defined by an individual having a sexual encounter with another person who is under the age of consent. Even if both parties explicitly consent to the act when it occurs, if one person is underage, statutory rape has occurred.
In order to understand statutory rape, one must understand what is meant by the legal term “age of consent.” In most states, the phrase does not explicitly appear in any legal statutes. When it is used in reference to statutory rape cases, though, “age of consent” is taken to mean the minimum age at which an individual is able to legally consent to a sexual act. In other words, even if a person under the age of consent verbally agrees to have sex with an older individual, in the eyes of the law, there has been no true consent.
The specifics of statutory rape laws, sentencing, and age of consent vary greatly from state to state. In Texas, for example age of consent is 17 years, and if convicted, a defendant faces a sentence ranging from two to twenty years in prison. Texas law states that a defendant has “an affirmative defense if he is not more than three years older than the victim, who is at least age 14.” In Nevada, the age of consent is 16 years, though the perpetrator must be at least 18 years old to face a statutory rape charge. In this state, the sentences are less harsh. If the defendant is 21 years of age or older, they may be sentenced to one to five years in prison. If the person is between 18 and 21 years of age, one year in prison is the maximum sentence. Though sentences for statutory rape can be very severe, it is considered a less serious offense than child molestation in almost all instances.
Because the laws and details concerning these cases vary so much from state to state, it is extremely important that any person facing charges consult the expertise of a local legal professional. A defense attorney from the state in which the defendant faces charges will be able to most effectively protect the rights of all parties involved in the case.