EXCEPTIONS TO STATUTORY RAPE IN OHIO
Jan. 23, 2022
According to a study done by the U.S. Department of Justice, 95 percent of statutory rape victims are female, and three out of every five victims are the age of 14 or 15. Three out of every ten statutory rape offenders are boyfriends or girlfriends, and six out of ten are acquaintances.
In Ohio, statutory rape is defined as “unlawful sexual conduct with a minor,” when one party is 18 or older, and the other party is 13, 14, or 15; in addition, the adult party had reason to know the other party was under 16, the age of consent in the state. Sexual conduct with an individual under 13 is rape.
The charge, whether misdemeanor or felony, is based on the age difference between the two. If it is less than four years, statutory rape is a misdemeanor. More than four years, and it is a felony.
Ohio law contains some exceptions for participants both under the age of 18. Ohio law also has a “Romeo and Juliet” provision reducing the charge from a fourth-degree felony to a first-degree misdemeanor when the age difference is less than four years.
If you’re facing a statutory rape charge in Columbus, Ohio, contact Wolfe Law Group, LLC today for experienced legal guidance. They can help investigate and seek to develop a strong defense based on the relevant statutes and case law.
They proudly serve clients in the neighboring communities of Dublin, Westerville, Gahanna, and Hilliard. They also serve clients in Licking County, Newark, Heath, Granville, Fairfield County, Lancaster, Pickerington, Delaware County, City of Delaware, Louis Center, Powell, Ohio.
Statutory Rape Laws in Ohio
Ohio Revised Code Section 2907.04 states: “No person who is eighteen years of age or older shall engage in sexual conduct with another, who is not the spouse of the offender when the offender knows the other person is thirteen years of age or older but less than sixteen years of age or the offender is reckless in that regard.”
Sexual conduct is described as “vaginal intercourse between a male and female; anal intercourse, fellatio, and cunnilingus between persons regardless of sex; and, without privilege to do so, the insertion, however slight, of any part of the body or any instrument, apparatus, or other object into the vaginal or anal opening of another. Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete vaginal or anal intercourse.”
Subsections state how age differential can change how the crime is charged, as mentioned in the introduction.
Less than four years difference in age, when both are minors but older than 13, is not considered statutory rape; for example, a 15-year-old and a 17-year-old engaging in consensual sex. However, if the sex is between an 18-year-old and a 15-year-old, it is statutory rape; but punishable as a misdemeanor rather than a felony because of the three-year age difference. Between those 18 and 14, the crime rises to a felony.
The less-than-four-year-age-difference exception is known as the “Romeo and Juliet” provision of the statute.
It is not statutory rape to have sex with someone 16 years of age or older regardless of the other person’s age.
Defenses and Exceptions to Statutory Rape
Of course, if both participants are under 18 and less than four years apart in age, it is not considered statutory rape. Other defenses include mental capacity and lack of knowledge of age.
Mental capacity means the offender did not comprehend the victim’s age or actions due to reduced mental function. When the offender lacks the knowledge of age it means the offender had no reason to know or did not know that the victim was under 16 years of age.
One of the strongest tools to pinpoint a perpetrator, or on the flipside, exonerate someone falsely accused, is by having the victim undergo a forensic examination by a doctor or nurse. The doctor or nurse will collect all available evidence, including hair, saliva, blood, semen, urine, skin cells, and samples from the genitalia and other body parts, and the evidence is put into what is called a “rape kit,” which is used to identify the perpetrator.
Penalties for Statutory Rape
Under the “Romeo and Juliet” provision resulting in a first-degree misdemeanor, the punishment is up to six months in jail and a hefty fine. If the age difference is four years but less than ten, the charge is a fourth-degree felony, punishable by at least six months in jail and up to 18 months in prison, and a heftier fine.
If the age difference is ten years or more, it becomes a third-degree felony, punishable by at least one year in prison and up to five years, a fine of $10,000, or both.
Also, remember that a conviction goes on your criminal record, which can haunt you for the rest of your life in obtaining employment, professional licensing, housing, and public benefits.
How Legal Counsel Can Help
A statutory rape charge is a serious indictment, and you will need the knowledge and resources of an experienced criminal defense attorney to build a solid defense, aiming for the best possible outcome. It’s no time to rely on a public defender, whose caseload is typically so large that they will have little time to work with you on developing a thorough defense.
If you are facing a statutory rape charge or under investigation in Columbus, Dublin, Westerville, Gahanna, Hilliard, Ohio, contact the Wolfe Law Group, LLC today. The initial consultation is free.