If you are facing Pennsylvania statutory rape charges, you need to know about our state’s laws concerning these offenses. An individual could get charged with statutory rape as a felony of the first or second degree in our state under Pa.CS 3122.1.
The Elements of Statutory Rape as a First- or Second-Degree Felony in Pennsylvania
A person can get charged with a felony of the first degree for statutory rape in our state if they had sexual intercourse with an individual who:
- Was not their spouse, and
- Was younger than 16 years of age at the time of the act, and
- The person committing the act was older than the complainant by 11 years or more at the time.
A second-degree felony of statutory rape can get charged when all of these elements are true:
- The complainant was not their spouse, and
- The complainant was under the age of 16 years at the time of the offense, and
- The individual charged was either between four and less than eight years older than the complainant or between eight and less than 11 years older than the complainant.
Another term for statutory rape in Pennsylvania is statutory sexual assault.
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At What Age a Person Can Legally Consent to Sexual Intercourse in Pennsylvania
In our state, the age of consent is 16 years. As a matter of law, a person under the age of 16 does not have the capacity to consent to engage in sexual intercourse.
In other words, if an individual engages in sex with someone younger than 16 years of age, Pennsylvania law considers that situation as non-consensual sexual activity. The sexual activity does not have to be forcible or against the will of the person younger than 16 years to be non-consensual sexual activity or to result in charges against the other party for statutory sexual assault.
Pennsylvania’s “Romeo and Juliet” Law
Our state’s lawmakers recognize the reality that some teenagers engage in sexual activity when they are below the age of consent. Rather than have teenagers face a ruined future because of sexual exploration with a boyfriend or girlfriend, our state has a “Romeo and Juliet” law that can allow the older partner to avoid criminal liability in some circumstances.
Let’s say that two teens engage in consensual sexual activity. One person is 15, and the other is 16. The 16-year-old can legally consent to sexual activity, but the 15-year-old cannot. However, the 16-year-old could benefit from the Romeo and Juliet law because that individual is under the age of 18, the partner is over the age of 13, and there is an age difference of less than four years.
The Law About Having Sexual Relations with Someone Who Is 12 or Younger
If the party with whom someone has sex is under the age of 13, Pennsylvania law considers that conduct to be child rape. The age difference between the two parties does not matter at that point. Engaging in sexual activity with a minor who is not yet 13 years old is illegal in Pennsylvania.
Penalties for a Conviction of Statutory Sexual Assault
Because a conviction for statutory sexual assault in Pennsylvania is a felony, the penalties can be severe. Depending on whether the conviction is a first-degree or second-degree felony, you could get sentenced to up to 10 or 20 years in prison. Your fine could be as much as $25,000.
You will have a felony on your record, and you will have to register as a sexual offender. You might be required to register as a sexual offender for the rest of your life. It is a felony in and of itself not to register as a sex offender when required to do so.
Defenses to Charges of Statutory Rape in Pennsylvania
In addition to the Romeo and Juliet law, Pennsylvania law provides another possible defense one can use if charged with statutory sexual assault. 18 PA Cons Stat § 3102 provides a defense called “mistake as to age.” The defendant must convince the court that he or she had a good reason to believe that the alleged victim was older than 14 years of age.
How a Sex Crime Conviction Can Affect Your Life
Getting convicted of a sex crime can ruin your life. You will have to register as a sex offender wherever you live, even if you move to another state. You will not be able to live within a certain distance of some types of establishments, like schools. Registered sexual offenders often get treated as social pariahs.
A conviction for a sex crime can close doors for you in many careers. You might be ineligible to have a professional license for the career of your dreams, get rejected from the university you want to attend, or get passed over for a great job after the employer reads your background report. Your family could face social stigma for decades.
Your best hope after getting charged with a sex crime like statutory sexual assault is to fight the charges to avoid getting a conviction. This challenge is not one for amateurs. You will want to hire a criminal defense attorney to battle on your behalf. You can contact the Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC today to get started.