Understanding Statutory Rape Laws in NC

If you are facing statutory rape charges, you know it’s serious. However, the complexity of the laws makes it difficult to understand the true extent of the punishment you may be facing. To help you better understand the case against you, our criminal lawyer in Raleigh is providing you with an in-depth look at statutory rape laws in North Carolina, including penalties and possible strategies your defense lawyer may employ to secure a more favorable outcome.

raleigh criminal lawyer statutory rape laws

What Is Statutory Rape in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, rape or sexual offense refers to vaginal intercourse, oral, or anal sex committed by force, against the will of another person, or while they are incapacitated and can’t consent. Statutory rape is much different and refers specifically to sexual intercourse with a minor, even if they consent. This is based on the premise that people under a certain age are not able to provide informed consent for sexual activity.

In North Carolina, the age of consent is 16, so if an adult is accused of having sex with a minor who is 15 or younger, they will face statutory rape charges. However, the severity of the charge depends on a variety of factors, including the age of the alleged victim, the role the adult may have had in the minor’s life, and other factors as outlined in the North Carolina General Statute 14-27.

What Are the Penalties of a Statutory Rape Conviction?

As we mentioned, there are several categories of statutory rape and sexual offenses in North Carolina law, and while they differ, each one is a felony charge. First, it’s important to note that in North Carolina, rape (statutory or otherwise) only refers to vaginal intercourse. Oral or anal intercourse or the insertion of an object or other body part into the vagina is considered a sexual offense. The structured sentencing system for statutory rape and statutory sexual offense are the same if the age of the alleged victim, age range, and other factors are equal.

Statutory Rape (or Sexual Offense) of a Child by an Adult

An individual is charged with this crime if they are over the age of 18 and the alleged victim is under the age of 13. If convicted, they are guilty of a Class B1 felony and may face life without parole.

First Degree Statutory Rape (or Sexual Offense)

First-degree statutory rape is levied if the victim is 12 years old or younger, and the defendant is at least 12 years old, four years older than the victim, and accused of having sexual intercourse with them. This is also a Class B1 felony charge and may be punished by life in prison without parole.

Statutory Rape (or Sexual Offense) of a Person 15 Years Old or Younger

If the defendant engages in sexual acts with a person who is under the age of consent and there is a six-year age difference or more, they may be found guilty of a Class B1 felony. However, if the age difference is over four but less than six years (such as a 19-year-old and a 15-year-old), the charge is reduced to a Class C felony charge.

Sexual Activity by a Substitute Parent or Custodian

This crime is levied against someone in a parental role, such as a foster parent or babysitter, who is accused of committing a sex offense against their minor charge. This is a Class E felony if convicted.

Taking Indecent Liberties with a Minor

For Statutory rape offenses to be committed in North Carolina, there must be oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse (or sexual penetration with a body part or object). However, it is also a crime to take indecent liberties with a minor if the defendant is five years older. This includes committing a lewd or lascivious act upon the minor or taking liberties for the purpose of arousal or sexual gratification. A conviction is punishable as a Class F felony.

Sex Offender Registry

While statutory rape crimes are punishable by long prison sentences, the ramifications of a conviction continue well after the defendant is released. Once released, either on parole, probation, or completely free, anyone with statutory rape convictions must put their name on the state sex offender registry.

This means that the individual:

  • Can’t live within 1,000 feet of a school or childcare center
  • Can’t teach, supervise, babysit, or care for minors either at their own home or at a care center.
  • Can’t have a commercial driver’s license with a passenger or school bus endorsement.
  • Is unable to obtain or renew emergency medical services credentials or a license by the North Carolina Board of Funeral Services.
  • Can not have their criminal record expunged.

Possible Defenses Against a Statutory Rape Charge

While statutory rape and similar crimes are very serious charges, there are defense strategies that can be used to help your case.

Statutory Rape Marital Exception

If the two people are married, the law allows consensual sex between a minor and their adult spouse. For example, if a 15-year-old marries a 22-year-old, they are legally allowed to engage in sexual intercourse. However, if the two were not married, sexual activities between the two would be illegal.

Romeo & Juliet Exception

The age of the defendant and the victim’s age does play a role in the criminal charges if any. For example, two teens who engage in consensual sex is not necessarily illegal. If an individual is at least 12 and is no more than four years older than the minor, they can’t be charged. For example, an 18-year-old can’t be charged with statutory rape if the other person is 15.

Consent Is Not a Defense in Statutory Rape in North Carolina

It’s important to note that whether or not the minor engaged in consensual sex is not relevant in criminal defense against statutory rape charges. As we mentioned above, the law is based on the premise that an individual under the age of consent (which is 16) can not give informed consent, especially with an adult partner, thus it’s not a valid defense.

Speak with an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney 24/7

If you are being investigated or charged with statutory rape, you need a defense lawyer on your side as soon as possible. At Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh, we have the experience, knowledge, and dedication necessary to fight on your behalf, protect your rights, and secure a just outcome. Reach out to us today at  (919) 887-8040 or fill out the form below to schedule a free consultation with our experienced legal team.

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