Content warning: this blog post discusses sexual assault and rape, including acts involving children.
Statutory rape is a complex issue in Ohio. The term generally refers to the act of pressuring a minor into having sex, which can be a serious crime if you are over the age of 18 and significantly older than your sexual partner.
However, sometimes the situation can be a bit more complicated, and acts that seemed consensual and harmless to both parties can technically be considered statutory rape.
There are a number of defenses that you can use against the charge of statutory rape in Ohio that, depending on your circumstances, might get your charges dropped or lessen the consequences of a conviction.
Our team of Ohio defense attorneys at Hiltner Trial Lawyers have spent years defending clients against claims of rape and domestic violence, and we know how to make sure our clients’ rights are being respected. Here’s our breakdown of how to build a defense against statutory rape in Ohio.
Statutory rape defintion in Ohio
The term “statutory rape” can include a number of different legal offenses involving sexual conduct with people under 18 years of age.
Here are three different crimes that you could be charged with:
- Rape: Under Ohio law, any child under 13 years of age is not considered legally able to give consent. Anyone over 18 who engages in sexual conduct with someone under 13 is guilty of rape, a 1st degree felony which is punishable by at least 3 years and up to life in prison.
- Unlawful sexual conduct with a minor: This crime applies to anyone over 18 who engages in sexual conduct with a minor between the ages of 13 and 16. The seriousness of the crime depends on the age difference between the two parties:
- If the age difference is less than 4 years, it is a 1st degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail or a $1,000 fine
- If the age difference is between 4 and 10 years, it is a 4th degree felony punishable by 6-18 months in jail or a $5,000 fine
- If the age difference is 10 years or more, it is a 3rd degree felony punishable by 1 to 5 years in jail or a $10,000 fine
- Gross sexual imposition: This crime includes any sexual contact, such as inappropriate touching, with a minor under 13. It is considered a third degree felony and is punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison.
If the sexual act in question was forced, coerced, or otherwise committed without consent, it can be prosecuted as rape or sexual assault outside of any statutory definition regarding age difference.
Defenses against statutory rape
While Ohio’s statutory rape laws play an important role in defending minors against sexual misconduct, these cases are often more complicated than they seem.
The most important thing you can do to mount a defense against a statutory rape charge is to hire a criminal defense attorney with experience in rape and sexual misconduct defense.
Here are a couple of common defenses used in statutory rape cases:
- The alleged conduct didn’t happen: If you and your attorney can provide evidence that the alleged sexual conduct didn’t happen, you might be able to get your case dismissed or be found not guilty in trial. Such evidence might include inconsistent evidence on the part of the accuser, a history of false allegations, or direct evidence that you did not do what you are accused of.
- Both parties were minors: Ohio law makes an exception for statutory rape when both parties were between 13 and 18 years old at the time of the sexual conduct. However, if the defendant was above 18 at the time, even if the age difference was less than 4 years, they can still be charged with unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.
- Plea bargains: As with many other charges, the defendant in a statutory rape case may be able to enter a plea bargain and negotiate a lesser charge or a reduction in penalties in exchange for a guilty plea. A plea bargain may also be able to keep the defendant off of the Ohio sex offender registry.
Mistake of age doesn’t apply
A common defense that people claim when they are accused of statutory rape is that they didn’t know the victim was underage when the sexual conduct occurred.
However, the requirements needed to prove felony one “statutory” rape in Ohio are that:
- There was sexual intercourse, and
- That the victim was less than 13 years of age.
Thus, “statutory” rape is a strict liability crime and does not require proof of intent. Therefore, a defendant cannot rely on a mistake of age, even a reasonable one, to avoid conviction in Ohio.
Even though you can’t use mistake of age claim as a defense, there are many things you can do to prevent a statutory rape charge from ruining your future. The first step is contacting an experienced defense attorney.
Hire a defense attorney in Ohio today
At Hiltner Trial Lawyers, we know how stressful it can be to be involved in a statutory rape case.
Whether the alleged conduct happened or not, you are entitled to a vigorous defense that will both protect your rights as a defendant and represent your interests as a person, and our team of experienced trial lawyers can provide that defense.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.