Statutory Rape: Consent is Not a Defense

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statutory rape

You have been single for a while and decide to test the waters of online dating. One day, you receive a message from “SheBadd_1987.” You review her profile. She has stated that she attends the local community college, waitresses at a local bar and has her own apartment. Also, her profile pictures reflect—in your eyes—an adult woman. You think she’s perfect and you contact her to arrange a date. In person, she also appears to be an adult woman as her profile pictures suggest and she carries herself as such. After a few dates, you two consummate the relationship and things seem to be going well. That is, until the police show up at your doorstep and arrest you for statutory rape. “SheBadd_1987” created a fictitious online profile. Unfortunately, she’s not 21—she’s 15!

The Misconception

When most people think about the crime of rape, they immediately assume that the act occurs when there is violence and force committed against the alleged victim’s will. While that is true in some cases, it is not always the case. The misconception is that the element of force is required in order for the crime of rape to be committed. The law is that crime of statutory rape does not require the element of force to be present. In a statutory rape case, the age of the accused and the alleged victim is what matters.

Statutory Rape Laws in Georgia

Under Georgia law, O.C.G.A. 16-6-3, a person commits the offense of statutory rape when he or she engages in sexual intercourse with any person under the age of 16 years, and that person is not his or her spouse. Thus, an alleged underage victim in a statutory rape case cannot consent to sexual activity. Under the law, persons under the age of 16 lack the legal capacity to consent.

In the case scenario, despite the actions of “SheBadd_1987” to intentionally present herself as an adult woman to the world and who reached out to the defendant first, Georgia law prevents her actions from being considered as consent.

Why Age Matters in Statutory Rape Cases

Statutory rape in the state of Georgia is a felony. If the defendant is under the age of 21 years old and is convicted of statutory rape then the punishment will be 1 to 20 years in prison. However, if the person is over the age of 21 years old then the punishment is 10 – 20 years in prison. A person convicted of statutory rape will also be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of their life.

In addition, if the victim is between the ages of 14 – 16 and the defendant is 18 years old or younger and no more than four years older than the victim then the defendant shall be guilty of only a misdemeanor.

Defenses to Statutory Rape

Unfortunately, as illustrated in the scenario presented, a victim lying about their age is not a defense in a statutory rape case. However, such facts and circumstances may be used to mitigate the defendant’s punishment. In addition to that, even though there may be a situation as the scenario above, in which, it is reasonable for a defendant to believe that the victim was of age to consent, such belief is still not a defense.

In the case of Tant v. State, 158 Ga. App 624 (1981), the defendants argued that they should not have been found guilty of statutory rape because the two victims—ages 12 and 14—told them that they were 17 and 18 years old. The defendants were essentially arguing that the crime was induced by a misapprehension of fact. The Georgia Court of Appeals stated that “the defendant’s knowledge of the age of the female is not an essential element of the crime of statutory rape and therefore is no defense that the accused reasonably believed that the prosecutrix was of the age of consent.”

The strongest possible defense is to present evidence showing that the accused and the alleged victim did not engage in any sexual activity and, therefore, there was no crime committed. Also, if both the accused and the alleged victim were under the age of 16 years old, a charge of statutory rape may be negated.

Contact Bixon Law

Being charged with statutory rape is a serious offense. You can find yourself sentenced to a significant amount of time behind bars even if the victim lied about their age. If you or a loved one has been charged with statutory rape, please call us at 404-551-5684 for a free consultation today. We are here to help!