Overview of Statutory Rape
The first question to come in mind is; What is Statutory Rape? When you define statutory rape—it is having sexual intercourse with someone under the legal age required to consent for such actions, basically a minor. Depending on state laws, statutory rape age is normally 18 or 16 at the time of intercourse. The minor’s obvious consent to sexual intercourse is not relevant.
Statutory rape laws are classified as strict liability laws which make minors incapable of agreeing to sexual intercourse. The general statutory rape definition is based on laws surrounding statutory rape that someone below the age of 18 or 16 does not have the mental maturity to voluntarily agree to sexual intercourse. Most states classify statutory rape as a felony only if one of the participants, normally the male is three years or more older than the other, otherwise it is regarded as a misdemeanor.
A minor can also be found guilty of statutory rape if the act was with another minor. Even if two 16 or 18-year olds have sex, the male will be prosecuted for statutory rape. Although they are laws, many states make provisions to the regular intercourse among minors in today’s modern society. If one of the minors is not three years older than the other, it will be charged as a misdemeanor otherwise a felony.
These are the fundamentals of the definition of statutory rape.
Rationale of Statutory Rape Laws
The whole idea behind statutory rape laws is that, before a certain person reaches the age of 16 or 18 in some states, they are not capable of consenting to intercourse. The statutory rape law supposes that even if he or she agrees to sexual intercourse, that act is not consensual (Berth). Experts dispute this notion on the basis that age limit should not be used to determine someone’s ability to have consented sex because a teenage person may be mature enough and possess sufficient social skills to make an informed decision about sex. And that as much, some adults may never develop the ability to make informed and mature decisions about sexual intercourse as even mentally healthy people are naïve and easily get manipulated during the course of their lives.
A different rationale is based on the fact that minors are not socially, legally and economically equal to adults. Thus, statutory rape laws are aimed at providing protection to minors against adults in influential positions over youth.
Another rationale argument in justifying statutory rape laws associates to the complexity in prosecuting the perpetrator against the victim in the courtroom. The reason is that, forced intercourse with an under-age person is regarded an atrocious form of rape. The laws help ease the burden of proving lack of consent in prosecution. This increases the rate of convictions for cases that involve minors (CNN, 2014).
Florida Statutory Rape Laws
Florida statutory rape law states that, it is unlawful for someone 18 years or older to have sexual intercourse with a person younger than 18. Even if the act is by mutual consent, it is classified as statutory rape.
The premise behind this law is based on the assumption that someone below the age of 18 is not capable of agreeing to sexual acts. Their inability to give consent is decreed into the statute – therefore the term “statutory rape.” As mentioned earlier on in this article, the legal age for consensual sex varies among states, with some states differentiating between consented sex between minors of the same age or in close age such as same age teenage persons, as opposed to the same act involving a teenager and an adult.
Even though, statutory rape doesn’t require prosecution to prove an assault, it still remains rape. Rape that involves an assault is illegal in Florida and is classified as a felony. Sexual assaults do vary in Florida, and they can be charged under child molestation or assault and battery or enticement.
In Florida, statutory rape cases are prosecuted under sexual battery and lascivious and lewd conduct laws. Liable penalties vary and depend on the age of the victim and the defendant. These offenses are broken down into different categories, and their penalties differ based on circumstances leading to the crime. Below is a description of them.
Illegal sexual acts with certain minors: This includes any form of sexual penetration whether with a body part or objects with someone of ages 16 or 17 and someone of at least 24 years of age. Convictions may include a 15-year jail sentence, a fine of up to $10,000 or both.
Lascivious molestation: This includes sexual fondling, touching between a minor and the defendant. The offense is classified as a first-degree felony provided the minor is under the age of 12 and the perpetrator 18 years of age or older. Convictions include 25 years in prison to life.
If the minor was between 13 and 15, and the defendant 18 years or older; or the minor below 12 and the defendant 17 years of age or younger, penalties will include 4 to 15 years in prison.
If the minor was below 16 and the defendant 17 or younger, penalties will range from 3 to 15 years in prison.
Lascivious and lewd battery: This includes sexual intercourse between a minor who is between 13 and 15 years of age and an adult. Penalties range from 7 to 15 years in prison.
Lascivious and lewd conduct: This involves sexual touching between a person under the age of 16 and an adult. Defendants 18 years or older will receive penalties ranging from two years to 15 years in prison. There are circumstances where penalties will include probation without prison time, such as if the defendant was found guilty of solicitation, but without performing a sexual act.
If the defendant was below the age of 18 during the crime, penalties will range from two years to five years in prison. Again the punishment may also include probation without prison time provided the defendant did not engage in a sexual act.
Contribution to the delinquency of an under-age person may be a probable charge if the defendant gets the victim pregnant as an outcome of statutory rape. The penalty will range from two to six years in prison.
State laws require that in addition to liable fines and prison sentences, sexual offenders including those who committed aggravated statutory rape should register as sex offenders. The only exception is when the case falls into the “Romeo and Juliet” exception.
Defense For Statutory Rape
Much different to a normal rape charge, mutual consent is not grounds for defense against a statutory rape charge. The law states that minors are legally not capable of making decisions regarding consensual sex. Therefore, even if there was mutual consent between the minor and the defendant, the sexual act is nonetheless a criminal offense, and the defendant would be convicted of rape.
“Rome and Juliet” Exceptions
Just as in Shakespeare’s book, “Romeo and Juliet” exceptions are meant to provide some form of protection against criminal charges for same age teenage persons or those in close age who engage in consensual sex. In Florida, however, there is a limitation on when this exemption can be applied. The exemption comes into effect if the minor was between 14 and 17 years old and the defendant was not more than four years older. If the defendant qualifies for eligibility requirements, the exemption makes him avoid registering as a sex offender, but it doesn’t make him immune to penalties that may include prison sentences or fines or both.
Quite often, defendants in their defense claim that they had no reason to believe their partner was a minor. They further argue that the victim presented herself as an adult and that anyone would have believed her. Despite this, In Florida cases of reasonably mistaken age are not grounds for defense against a statutory rape charge.
See an Attorney
If you are charged with statutory rape, you may want to consider seeking the services of qualified and experienced attorney who regularly deals in such cases in your area. An attorney will evaluate the case against you can build a strong defense that applies to your case.
An attorney may negotiate with the prosecution for a lesser charge which can result in reduced fines, sentences or even acquittal. A good attorney will know how prosecutors and judges handle cases similar to yours.
Male and Female Statutory Rape
In the past, sexual intercourse involving an underage male and adult female was often disregarded by law, and often understood as sexual instigation by the younger man (Gartner, 1999). A Star-Ledger evaluation revealed considerable discrepancies when these abuses committed by females were analyzed in penal court systems: on average, men are sent to prison more often and on average receive longer sentences, up to 50% (News, 2012).These discrepancies are an indication of a biased court system in favor of women. Most underage males who get involved in such sexual acts see them as positive, about a third are neutral and a minor 5 % have negative views about it.
In addition, these controversial cases normally involved adult females who were in positions of responsibility for the young male. Over the last couple of years, there have been several high profile cases involving female statutory rape. Cases involving Debra Lafave, Mary Kay Letourneau, and Pamela Rogers Turner are examples of high profile cases where women have been prosecuted for getting involved in sexual acts with male minors. In English and Scottish law, these cases would be viewed as indecent assaults, and many have been prosecuted.
Although extremely rare, there have been cases in U.S. courts where male rape victims receive child support for children born as a result of the crime.
In the case of San Luis Obispo vs. Nathaniel J, a 15-year-old victim. Nathaniel spoke of a future with the defendant, a 34-year-old perpetrator and he said the sex was consensual. Because of his words, the California Court held him financially responsible for the child. The court argued that Nathaniel J. was not a victim of statutory rape (Jones, 2001).
Gay/Lesbian Statutory Rape
In certain jurisdictions, cases of sexual intercourse between adults and minors may be penalized more harshly if they are both of the same sex. For instance, in the state in Kansas, if an adult has sex with a minor who is not more than four years younger, the Romeo and Juliet exception greatly mitigates the penalty.
As decreed, this law did not apply to couples of the same sex, which left it subject to much severe penalties and punishments than couples of the same sex in similar offenses.
This Kansas law was however challenged successfully as being in dispute with Supreme Court rulings “Romer vs. Evans and Lawrence vs. Texas” (State v Limon-Kansas Supreme Court) the Lawrenceprecedent didn’t precisely address the issue of equal protection, however when it was applied in the case State vs. Limon (2005), it nullified laws of age of consent in Kansas which discriminate court cases based on the people’s sexual orientation.
Berth, W. (n.d.). Can Statutory Rape Laws Be Effective in Preventing Adolescent Pregnancy?
CNN. (2014). The pros and cons of statutory rape laws. Cable News Network.
Gartner, R. B. (1999). Betrayed as Boys: Psychodynamic Treatment of Sexually Abused Men. New York: NY:Guildford Press.
Jones, R. (2001). “Inequality from Gender-Neutral Laws: Why Must Male Victims of Statutory Rape Pay Child Support for Children Resulting from Their Victimization. Georgia Law Press.
News, N. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.nj.com: /news/index.ssf/2013/04/a_look_at_teacher-student_sex.html#incart_m-rpt-1
State v Limon-Kansas Supreme Court. (n.d.). Retrieved from heinonline.com: http://www.kscourts.org/kscases/supct/2005/20051021/85898.htm