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Wolfe & Mote Law Group, LLC Feb. 22, 2022

In Ohio, the age of consent is 16 years. Under state laws, it is unlawful for an adult to engage in sexual activity with someone younger than 16, even if the sex is consensual. As such, a person may be arrested for unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, even if their sexual partner claimed to be an adult. If you're being accused of unlawful sexual intercourse in Columbus or anywhere else in Ohio, it’s natural to feel confused—even overwhelmed.

It is vital that you retain an aggressive and highly-skilled Ohio criminal defense attorney to build your defense strategy. Wolfe & Mote Law Group, LLC is dedicated to providing knowledgeable legal guidance and reliable representation to individuals facing unlawful sexual conduct charges. Attorney Stephen Wolfe and his skilled legal staff can investigate all of the facts surrounding your case and strategize an effective defense to pursue the best available outcome for your unique situation. The firm proudly represents clients across Columbus, Dublin, Westerville, Gahanna, Hilliard, and surrounding counties, including Licking County, Newark, Heath, Granville, and Fairfield County, Ohio.

Is Mistake-of-Age An Adequate Defense?

Mistake-of-age—claiming that the sexual partner looked like or claimed to be 18 years—is usually not an adequate defense in a statutory rape charge. A defendant or their legal representative may be able to raise a mistake-of-age defense in limited circumstances if there is reasonable belief that the sexual partner is over 18 years. Below are some circumstances or facts that a defendant might use to establish proof of reasonable belief:

  • The victim made a statement or misrepresentation regarding their age

  • The defendant made significant efforts to verify the victim's age

  • The physical appearance of the victim

  • Other people's reasonable beliefs regarding the victim's age

The belief that an under-aged person was actually over 18 years must be a reasonable belief—meaning that a reasonable adult would have formed the same belief. A skilled attorney can enlighten you about how evidence of age can help with your statutory rape allegations and build your defense accordingly.

Evidence of Age

Essentially, a person saying they're 18 years old is not enough to form a reasonable belief to most people. Regardless, a minor—below the age of consent—could have an incentive to lie. Hence, further evidence will be required to establish such a belief, for instance:

Did They Have Car Keys?

In order to get a driver's license in Ohio and be legally able to drive, the person must be at least 16 years old. Hence, if they had car keys, you may have a reasonable belief that they are actually over the age of consent.

Did They Have Cigarettes?

In Ohio, it is illegal to sell tobacco and nicotine products such as e-cigarette and vaping products to anyone below 21 years. If they were holding a cigarette, it is possible for you to believe that they may be an adult.

Did They Have Credit Cards?

In order to get a credit card in Ohio, you have to be at least 18 years old. If they had credit cards, you might have reason to believe that they are older than 18 years. 

Did They Talk About Adult-Related Activities?

The activities the sexual partner talked about during your conversation can make you form a reasonable belief of their being an adult. For instance, they may talk about going to college, having a job, living outside of their parent's home, owning a car, having a child, and paying rent. Any of these statements are more likely to indicate adulthood.

Did They Talk About Minor-Related Activities?

There are some activities that minors mention more during a conversation. These include curfew, living with parents, not having access to a car, having to be home by a certain time, getting calls or texts from a parent, and needing to check in with someone. If they mentioned any of these activities or items, in most cases, it is not reasonable to consider them an adult.

Did they let you into their home?

Another activity that shows evidence of age is what happened when you visited their home. Did they let you in, or make you wait outside? These things matter. You may also be able to guess their age by observing what their home looked like when you visited. Did their apartment look like something a young person would be able to afford? Did the home appear more like an expensive suburban family home? Conversely, if they asked you to pick them up near a high school or away from their home, this may be a red flag for a reasonable person.

Hiring an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

Plenty of minors look like adults, and plenty of adults look like minors. It can be very difficult to accurately guess a person's age—especially in the 15-25 range—from their appearance alone. There are very tall minors with fully developed bodies, and there are adults who are short, have young-looking appearances, and have less-than-full body development. Establishing a reasonable mistake-of-age defense when facing unlawful sexual intercourse allegations can be difficult. This is why you need to retain a highly-skilled criminal defense lawyer to outline your best defense strategy and help you fight for a favorable outcome.

According to the most recent statistics from the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services, there were 7,815 total reported incidents of sexual assault statewide in 2015. Defending your unlawful sexual conduct allegations without experienced representation could easily increase your risks of being convicted and receiving the maximum punishments. If convicted, you could be facing lengthy imprisonment, massive fines, registration as a sex offender, and other devastating life-altering ramifications. When facing these kinds of allegations, you need to retain an experienced sex crimes defense attorney immediately for proper guidance.

Facing unlawful sexual conduct or other sex crimes allegations can be terrifying. That is why you should never face them alone. Contact Wolfe & Mote Law Group, LLC today to schedule a simple case evaluation. Attorney Stephen Wolfe and his trusted team can offer you the aggressive, compassionate representation you need to fight your statutory rape accusations and make sure you get fair treatment. The firm proudly represents clients across Columbus, Dublin, Westerville, Gahanna, Hilliard, and surrounding counties, including Licking County, Newark, Heath, Granville, and Fairfield County, Ohio.