Statutory rape refers to sexual relations involving someone below the "age of consent." People below the age of consent cannot legally consent to having sex. This means that 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 using different names to refer to this crime. Many states punish statutory rape under laws addressing sexual assault, rape, unlawful sexual intercourse or carnal knowledge of a child. There are very few federal laws dealing with statutory rape.
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 "forcible rape," statutory rape can involve underage participants who willingly engage in sexual relations. However, because those under the age of consent cannot give legal consent to sex, the act is a crime whether or not force is involved. If the act involves force or coercion, many states prosecute the offender under the separate statutes punishing child molestation or aggravated rape.
The age of consent varies from state to state. Many states set the age of consent at 16 years old, 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 do allow such a defense, it often cannot be used if the victim was particularly young, commonly under the age of 14. If you know of a child who is a victim of statutory rape contact the local police . If you are the parent of a victim, Manly, Stewart and Finaldi can explain your legal rights and help you seek justice.
Contact a California sexual abuse lawyer for help with your case involving statutory rape.