Statutory Rape Charges in North Carolina

North Carolina sex crimes are incredibly serious. When the charges involve statutory rape or sex with a minor, the stigma can be significant. North Carolina defendants can face felony charges for having sexual intercourse with a person under the age of consent. Many North Carolina residents are unaware that they can face rape charges when they engaged in consensual sex. Statutory rape often arises when a teenager has sexual intercourse with a partner who is a few years older. The older partner could face charges for statutory rape, which is a serious sex crime in North Carolina.

North Carolina’s Definition of Statutory Rape

Statutory rape is different from other sex crimes in North Carolina. When it comes to the crimes of rape and sexual assault, the offenders engage in sexual contact of some degree to which the victim does not consent. For example, the crime of rape requires the defendant to have sexual intercourse with a victim who does not give consent. On the contrary, a defendant charged with statutory rape can be convicted in court of the crime despite having “consensual sex” with another person.

Under North Carolina law, a person who is 16 years old and older have reached the age of consent. Teenagers age 15 and younger are not legally able to give their consent according to North Carolina law. Thus, a 15-year-old might say that he or she consents to sexual intercourse, but courts will not recognize that consent as legally valid. Thus, adults who have sexual intercourse with a person age 15 years or younger will be strictly liable for Statutory Rape.

Consent is Not a Defense to Statutory Rape

With ordinary rape charges, defendants can raise the defense of consent. A defendant cannot be convicted of rape, when prosecutors fail to prove that an alleged victim did not consent to the sexual intercourse. When it comes to statutory rape charges, the defendant cannot raise the defense that the alleged victim consented to the sexual intercourse.

The Charge of Statutory Rape Depends on the Age Difference

Statutory rape is a felony, one of the more serious sex crimes in North Carolina. The severity of the charge depends on the difference in age between the parties who had sexual intercourse. When a four-to-six-year age year difference exists between the parties, the defendant faces a class C felony charge. According to the felony punishment chart, a person convicted of a class C felony faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 231 months. If the parties have a six-year or greater age difference, they will face a class B1 felony charge, which has more serious consequences. A person convicted of a class B1 felony faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Prosecutors look to the age of the younger person and the type of sexual activities that occurred, as well. The following crimes are classified as class B1 felonies:

  • First-degree statutory rape occurs when the defendant has vaginal intercourse with someone under the age of 13 and the defendant is at least four years older
  • Statutory sexual offense with a child occurs when a defendant engages in sexual acts with a child under the age of 13 when the defendant is 18 or older
  • The defendant engages in sexual acts with a person age 15 or younger when the defendant is at least six years older than the youngest person
  • First-degree statutory sexual offense happens when the defendant conducts sexual acts with a child under age 13 when the defendant is at least four years older
Exceptions and Defenses to Statutory Rape Crimes in North Carolina

A common exception to North Carolina’s statutory rape laws is the “Romeo and Juliet” exception. Named after the star crossed lovers in Shakespeare’s play, when teenagers are within four years of age and engage in consensual sexual sex, the older party cannot face statutory rape charges. Thus, a prosecutor cannot charge an 18 year old for having consensual sex with his 14-year-old girlfriend. Additionally, if both parties are married, prosecutors cannot bring a statutory rape charge against the older party.

Contact Our Statutory Rape Defense Attorneys Today

If you are facing statutory rape charges in North Carolina, Arnold & Smith, PLLC can help. In North Carolina, statutory rape is a felony-level sex crime. Convicted defendants face prison time of at least a year and penalties. Statutory rape of a child under the age of 13 by an adult comes with a minimum punishment of 25 years in prison. Contact our criminal defense attorneys today to schedule your free initial consultation.