Statutory Rape

Statutory rape is something many people have heard of, maybe in a newspaper article or perhaps on a rerun of Law & Order. Though it’s a widely known topic, it’s frequently misunderstood given the somewhat confusing language contained in Tennessee’s law.

 What is statutory rape?

 Statutory rape happens when a person  has sexual relations with someone under the age of legal consent (which is 18  in Tennessee). Consent is unimportant in such cases as the legal issue  revolves strictly around the age of the participants. It’s important to note  that Tennessee law does not care about the gender of the victim. This means  that both males and females who engage in sexual contact with an underage  person face prosecution.

 In Tennessee, statutory rape is broken down  into three categories based on the age of those engaged in sexual relations.Regardless of the specific category of statutory rape, those convicted of  the crime face fines, jail time and the possibility of registering as a  sex offender.

What are the  different categories of statutory rape?

 The first category of statutory rape is what’s known as “mitigated statutory rape.”This occurs in cases where sexual penetration happens when a victim is between 15 and 18 years old and the defendant is between four and five years older  than the victim. Mitigated statutory rape is a Class E felony and can be punished with between one and six years behind bars. An example of a situation that would qualify as mitigated statutory rape is where sexual contact occurs between a 16-year-old and a 20-year-old.

 The second category of such offenses is known as statutory rape and occurs in  cases where the victim is between 13 and 15 years old and the defendant is at  least four years older than the victim. Statutory rape also occurs in cases where  the victims are between 15 and 18, but the defendants are more than five years older than the victim. This too is considered a Class E felony and is punishable by one to six years behind bars. An example of a situation that would qualify as statutory rape is when sexual contact occurs between a 14-year-old and an 18-year-old.

 Finally,aggravated statutory rape exists when sexual contact occurs between a  victim that is between 13 and 18 and the defendant is at least 10 years older than  the victim. This is a Class D felony and is punishable with between two and 12 years behind bars.

 Can minors be convicted of statutory rape?

The short answer is yes. As the law clearly states, the issue is one of age gap. For instance, if a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old engaged in a sexual relationship, the 17-year-old could face statutory rape charges and all the criminal punishments that go along with it. Just because both participants are underage does not prevent criminal prosecution.