While society has an obligation to protect its people from sexual violence and crimes, there is also room for nuance in the specific definitions of a sexual crime based on our collective understanding of human sexuality as a whole. One area of the law that can be particularly complex is the crime of statutory rape.
What Is Statutory Rape?
Most people have a common understanding of what the crime of rape is. It is typically defined as the unlawful penetration of an unwilling victim. However, there is a completely different crime known as statutory rape that is also worth understanding. North Carolina state law defines statutory rape in the following way:
A defendant is guilty of a Class B1 felony if the defendant engages in vaginal intercourse with another person who is 15 years of age or younger and the defendant is at least 12 years old and at least six years older than the person, except when the defendant is lawfully married to the person.
There are a number of key points to break down in this definition.
“Consent” of the Victim Is Irrelevant
A common defense offered by someone charged with statutory rape is that the victim consented to the sexual activity that they engaged in. However, the law is very clear that this defense is not valid as victims who are 15 years of age or younger are not legally capable of giving consent to sexual activity of any kind. Society recognizes that persons who are 15 years of age or younger are not mentally and emotionally developed enough to decide for themselves if they want to willfully engage in sexual conduct.
The Accused Must Be at Least 12 Years Old and at Least 6 Years Older Than the Victim
There are two vital caveats about the age of the accused as it relates to statutory rape laws. The first is that the accused must be at least 12 years of age themselves. There are unfortunate situations in which a child younger than the age of 12 may engage in sexual activity with someone younger than them and not be fully aware of what they are doing or the harm that they are causing. The state recognizes that a child that young should not be held criminally responsible for sexual actions that they take against another.
Another important point is that the accused must be at least 6 years older than the victim in these cases. This is done to protect teenagers who engage in willful sexual activities with one another. Data suggests that the average age at which one loses their virginity in the United States is 17.1 years of age. Thus, there are many underage couples engaging in willful sexual activity with one another, and this should not be punished criminally. That is why the layers of nuance are incorporated into the law.
A Couple Is Lawfully Married
It is exceedingly rare, but there are some couples that are lawfully married who might otherwise be in violation of the statutory rape law. If a couple has an age difference of more than 6 years and at least one person in the couple is 15 years of age or younger, they may still engage in lawful sexual activity as long as they are legally married. Again, this is very uncommon.
What to Do if You Are Accused of Statutory Rape
An accusation of a sexual crime of any nature is very damaging to the person accused. If word gets out to the public (as it often does), it can be extraordinarily damaging to your reputation. Although we live in a country with a presumption of innocence, not everyone living in our society is great about waiting until all of the facts have panned out. Many are quick to judge and to believe any accusation that they hear about someone. Thus, you are going to be fighting an uphill battle the whole way if you are trying to clear your name.
Hire a Lawyer
We cannot stress enough the importance of immediately hiring a lawyer when you learn of charges being levied against you. The sooner that you have a lawyer fighting in your corner, the sooner you can work towards getting your name cleared.
Your attorney can help you with the following:
- Gathering evidence related to your case
- Discussing the nuances of the statutory rape law
- Negotiating with the other side to get charges dropped or reduced
- Reviewing case files for information about precisely what happened in this case
- Help answer any questions that you may have to clarify the information being thrown at you at this time
Someone accused of statutory rape is very likely to feel as if their character is under assault, and it is understandable that they may feel this way. They have two options. They can either take all of the incoming fire on their own and just hope for the best, or they can hire an advocate who will stand by their side and repel unwarranted attacks. The right choice, in this case, should be very obvious.
Speak With a Criminal Defense Attorney at King Law
Here at King Law, we provide clients with experienced criminal defense lawyers with specific expertise in all different areas of the law. We can help with a statutory rape case should the need arise. When you sit down with our team, we will calmly go over the facts of your case and discuss your options for moving forward. If you are comfortable with our ability to serve you, then we can move forward to the next stage of your legal defense.
Our offices can always be reached by phone at (888) 748-5464 (KING), or feel free to fill out our contact form.