Statutory Rape

Statutory rape refers to sexual relations involving a person under the age of “consent”. People who have not reached the age of consent cannot legally consent to have sex. This means that having sex with them, by definition, violates the law.

Statutory rape laws vary by state, with states setting the age of consent differently, as well as the use of different names to denote the crime. Many states punish statutory rape under laws dealing with sexual assault, rape, illegal sex or having sex with a child. There are very few federal laws regarding legal rape.

No Requirement Of Force

Statutory rape differs from other types of rape, and from child molestation, in that the act would not be a crime if all participants were above the age of consent. Unlike “forced rape”, statutory rape can involve minor participants who voluntarily engage in sexual relations. However, since minors cannot give their legal consent to sex, the act is a crime, whether or not force is used. If the act involves force or coercion, many states prosecute the offender under separate laws punishing child sexual abuse or aggravated rape.

Age Of Consent

The age of consent differs from state to state. Many states set the age of consent at 16, while others set it at 17 or 18.
Historically, statutory rape has been a “strict liability” offense, meaning that it does not matter whether what the perpetrator believed the victim was old enough to consent to sex. Some states now allow the defense that the perpetrator had reason to believe, and did believe, that the minor was above the age of consent. However, in many states this defense is not allowed, meaning that the act was a crime regardless of what the perpetrator believed the victims age to be. In states that allow such a defense, it often cannot be used if the victim was particularly young, usually under the age of 14.

Factors Affecting The Level Of Offense Charges And Penalties

Laws punishing statutory rape often include a spectrum of offenses, ranging from misdemeanors to high level felonies. In general, two main factors affect the level of offense for an act of statutory rape:

  1. the age of the victim; and
  2. the age difference between victim and perpetrator. Other factors, including any prior sex offenses committed by the offender, whether drugs or alcohol were involved, and whether pregnancy resulted, can also affect the level of charge imposed.

For example, in some states, sex with someone under the age of 12 or 14 is a first degree crime, while sex with an older person but still below the age of consent, could be a lower level offense or felony.

In other states, any act of statutory rape constitutes a crime, resulting in severe and sometimes mandatory prison terms. The range of offenses within the same state can involve several factors and include a wide range of charges.

Some states impose harsher penalties when the offender is a certain number of years older than the victim. Other states have laws in which the age of the perpetrator alone (over 21, for example), pushes the act to a higher level of offense.

The punishment for statutory rape may include mandatory prison or prison terms, probation, fines, and mandatory treatment services. Many states require that those convicted of statutory rape register as sex offenders.

“Romeo And Juliet Laws”

To address sexual relationships in which not all participants have reached the age of consent or which involve an offender close to the age of minor, some states have adopted what we called the “Romeo and Juliet laws”. These laws provide for different treatment of statutory rape offenses involving the elderly.

Not all states have adopted the Romeo and Juliet laws, and these laws work differently in many states that have adopted them. In some states, they allow a defense against criminal charges for statutory rape. In other states, they move the offense to a lower level, such as an offense. In some places, the Romeo and Juliet laws reduce the level of punishment for the offense – imposing only probation or a fine, or removing the requirement to register as a sex offender.

Professionals Required To Report

Some states require certain categories of professionals to report to the authorities their knowledge or suspicion of statutory rape. The types of professionals required to report statutory rape often include teachers, health professionals, public officials and the clergy, among others.


Statutory rape is a type of sex crime which is charged with a an offense and can be punishable by a fine, probation, imprisonment and / or registration as a sex offender, depending on the state and circumstances of the incident.

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