Statutory rape is classified as any act that involves sexual relations taking place with someone that is underage or below the specified age of consent. This is classified as rape because someone under the age of consent cannot legally give their consent to a sexual act even if they are willing.
Statutory rape is different from other forms of rape in that it would not be a crime if both parties were above the age of consent. This essentially means that no force was used and unlike rape by coercion, the victim can willingly cooperate to have sexual relations and still the act would be an illegal crime as the victim cannot legally give consent. The age of consent is different depending on the state and varies between 16 to 18 years of age. In most states, statutory rape is considered a strict liability crime, meaning it is irrelevant whether the person perceived the victim to be above the age of consent or not. Some states allow a defense if the person believed that the victim was above the age of consent.
The severity and level of charges regarding statutory rape are dependent on several factors. The penalties can range from a misdemeanor to high-scale felonies. Typically, the severity of charges is influenced by two main factors. These are the age of the victim and the age gap between the perpetrator and the victim. There are also other factors such as the criminal record of the perpetrator concerning any sexual offenses and the involvement of drugs or alcohol. These factors are viewed differently by various states. In some states, the age gap between the victim and perpetrator takes precedence, and if the difference is greater than a certain level, then the act is considered a high-grade felony. Many states can require you to be listed on the sex offenders list.
The consequences of a statutory rape conviction can haunt you for the rest of your life. The penalties and requirements for statutory rape vary depending on the state and the charges can be very difficult to defend. Thus, if you have been accused of this offense, it is highly recommended that you consult an experienced criminal defense attorney near you.