Can You Defend Against Statutory Rape if You Say That You were Unaware of the Victim's Minor Age?

A predominant question that is raised by many defendants charged with a statutory rape charge is if it is still illegal to have sexual relations with a minor if they did not know about their underage. And the answer, obviously, depends on the circumstance.

What is the Difference Between Statutory Sexual Assault and Rape?

According to the Pennsylvania laws, there is no statutory rape law. It was replaced by the Pennsylvania Criminal Code Chapter 18 Section 3122.1 as statutory sexual assault.

Rape involves nonconsensual penetration, including an act of force, violence, threatening or impairing the victim with alcohol or drugs. But sexual assault is particularly referred to the intercourse without the victim’s consent.

The concept that underlies the charges of statutory rape is that there is an inherent inability of the victim to give consent to the act despite willingly participating as they are underage. Even emotional feelings on the part of the minor will not be effective enough to defend the statutory rape charges. These charges are based on the age of the victim rather than the sexual activity. In Pennsylvania, the age of consent is 16.

Can the Mistaken Age be a Good Defense Against the Statutory Rape Charges in Pennsylvania?

Now coming to the question of whether the defendants can be argue on the fact that they did not know of the underage of the victim, and the answer is, according to the statute 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3102, it can never be a legitimate defense.

And at the same time, the statute also claims, “when criminality depends on the child’s being below a critical age older than 14 years, it is a defense for the defendant to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she reasonably believed the child to be above the critical age.” This indicates that the proof which will determine the result of the case depends on the defendant whether he or she is able to prove that they had a substantial reason to believe the victim was above the age of consent. False identity, or the victim’s explicit statements, can guarantee that the victim was, indeed, above the age required, during the act. Although, it is true that proving why you believed the victim was older is also a challenging task.

How is one Penalized for Statutory Rape?

Statutory sexual assault is a first or second-degree felony, although determined by the nature of the convicted offense. The statutory sexual assault was a first-degree felony when the defendant was 11 years or more, older than the minor victim. And it can become a second-degree felony if the sexual intercourse was engaged with a non-spouse of 15 years old or younger.

The penalties for the first-degree felony is a fine amount of $25,000 and a sentence of a maximum of 20 years. And for the second-degree felony, the fine remains the same, but the imprisonment is only for 10 years.

Teachers, school volunteers, and school employees who have sex with students who are in their care and under their control face third-degree felony charges. The penalties include one or both of $15,000 in fines and seven years in prison.

A conviction for statutory sexual assault also requires registration on the Megan’s Law Sex Offenders list.

Defenses for Statutory Sexual Assault

There are two special defenses that are reserved for statutory sexual assault charges. The first of these is marriage. If a 23-year-old has sex with a 15-year-old outside of marriage, it is considered statutory sexual assault, but if the couple is married, it is not. The second defense is that both participants were teens, as long as neither was under the age of 13, and there is no more than a four-year difference in their ages.

Fight Your Sexual Assault Charges with an Experienced Criminal Lawyer

If you or anyone you know has been alleged with a statutory sexual assault or rape, then you should immediately resort to a Pittsburgh criminal lawyer. An experienced and skilled lawyer in Pittsburgh or all across Pennsylvania will be able to protect your rights and fight for it. Look for a lawyer who has represented such clients accused of such serious offenses before including indecent exposure, rape, or sexual intercourse.