Content warning: this blog post discusses sexual assault and rape, including acts involving children.
If someone 18 years of age or older has sex with someone 15 years old or younger, the adult in this situation could be charged with the crime of statutory rape in Ohio. Although the term “statutory rape” is not used in Ohio law, the rape charge in these cases is a serious one.
Regardless of whether the minor agreed to have sex or not, the state does not consider someone that young mentally competent enough to grant such consent, and criminal charges may be brought.
If convicted of having sex with someone underage, there is a strong likelihood the adult will spend time behind bars. However, the exact amount of time in prison will depend on a variety of factors including age, the victim’s age, and if force was involved.
If you have been charged with rape in a case like this in Ohio, you need a lawyer who understands the ramifications of what you’re up against. Hiltner Trials Lawyers have years of experience defending those who have been tried in cases like these and helping people protect their rights and their freedom.
What Are the Statutory Rape Laws in Ohio?
What people casually refer to as “statutory rape” may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony in Ohio. The following are general guidelines regarding the sentencing of statutory rape crimes, since the Ohio legislature and judiciary regularly update these laws.
- Misdemeanor unlawful sexual conduct with a minor occurs if there is any sexual conduct (legally defined in Ohio as genital, anal or oral sex, or penetration with a body part or object) between someone less than four years older than a younger partner who has 13, 14, or 15 years of age. The penalty is up to 6 months in jail, a fine up to $1,000 or both.
- Fourth degree felony unlawful sexual conduct with a minor may apply if the defendant is 4 years older than the victim (but fewer than 10). This is punishable by 6 to 18 months in prison, a $5,000 fine or both.
- Third degree felony unlawful sexual conduct with a minor – If the defendant is more than 10 years older than the victim, it qualifies as a third degree felony that is punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison, a fine up to $10,000 or both.
- Gross sexual imposition—This involves sexual contact without penetration with a minor younger than 13 years old. The penalties include from 1 to 5 years in prison, a fine up to $10,000 or both.
- Rape—This charge applies to sexual conduct involving penetration of a minor younger than 13 years of age. This first degree felony is punishable by 3 years to the potential of life in prison, a fine of up to $20,000 or both.
What Are the Defenses to Statutory Rape in Ohio?
If you are facing prosecution for statutory rape, you should know that Ohio does recognize some legal defenses.
- Marriage—If you are married to a minor, you are legally permitted to have sexual relations with them. However, the sexual acts must be consensual; if one party forces the other, then this may constitute rape.
- “Romeo and Juliet” exception—If both parties are at least 13 years old but younger than 18, then consensual sex is not illegal.
- Mistake of age—Although not strictly a legal defense, as ignorance of the victim’s age may not shield you from prosecution, the court may look more favorably on someone who had no reason to believe the victim was underage. However, having an experienced defense attorney on your side in this instance is critical.
Contact Hiltner Trial Lawyers Today
Hiltner Trial Lawyers, one of Akron’s most respected legal teams, will devote all of our experience, resources, and knowledge to making sure you get the best defense possible. If you are accused of a sex crime in Ohio, don’t hesitate to contact us for a free consultation and talk about your case.