Is there a criminal defense to statutory rape?

Most everyone in Alabama is aware that rape is generally defined as sexual intercourse in which one party is unable to consent to act or is forced into it. However, not as many people understand what constitutes statutory rape. If an individual is charged with statutory rape, it is important to engage criminal defense counsel as soon as possible because there are defenses to the criminal accusations.

The main difference between rape and statutory rape is consent. Anyone over the age of 16 is considered legally able to consent to sexual intercourse. Therefore, if an adult (someone over the age of 18) has consensual sex with an individual between the ages of 16 and 18, he or she is not guilty of statutory rape. However, when the minor is under the age of 16, a defense against such a charge becomes more of a challenge.

Unlike rape, statutory rape does not include the need to prove that force was used. It should be noted that the fact that the supposed perpetrator was led to believe that his or her partner was at least 16 does not matter. If an individual is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law, the penalties can span a wide range depending on the ages of the alleged victim and perpetrator.

Many states, Alabama included, have what is referred to as a “Romeo and Juliet” law, which is a defense against a charge of statutory rape. The law varies by state, but here in Alabama, it allows for consensual sex between a minor between the ages of 12 and 16 with another individual who is not more than two years older. A criminal defense attorney can specifically outline the options available to an individual who is facing such a charge.

Source: FindLaw, “Statutory Rape“, Aug. 5, 2016