In most intimate relationships, almost anything is legal as long as both parties give their consent. In the eyes of the law, a person’s ability to give consent is what’s most important.
Here in Ohio, the age of consent is 16. That’s the minimum age when a person is considered old enough to understand what it means to give their consent to sex.
If you’re an adult (18 older) and have sexual activity – wanted or not – with someone younger than 16 in Ohio, you could be facing charges of statutory rape. If found guilty, the consequences could be thousands of dollars in fines and many years in jail.
How Does One Defend Against Statutory Rape Charges?
Defending yourself against charges of statutory rape can be difficult. Charges stemming from sex crimes can be among the most serious you’ll ever face because they can affect you for the rest of your life.
That’s why the expertise of a criminal defense lawyer who knows specifically how to mount an effective defense against statutory rape charges is so important.
Each case is unique and has its own conditions, but here are some defense arguments that have been successful.
It Never Happened
Because accusations of rape can destroy the life of the accused person, it’s not unheard of for someone to make a false claim – for whatever reason – regardless of age.
Examples include making the claim to divert attention away from something they’ve done, or brining accusations in an attempt to “get back” at someone. In September of this year, police officers confirmed that a 14-year-old girl made up claims of her abduction and rape.
Other defenses using this approach may include DNA evidence from both parties to prove there was no sex.
The Parties Are Married
As of this year, the legal age for marriage in Ohio has been changed from 16 to 18. Before that, the legal age was 16. Then, exceptions could be made for younger pregnant teens with parental consent and approval from juvenile court.
If you were married to the person making the claim before the new legislation passed, sex with them would have been legal.
You Made a Reasonable Mistake About the Person’s Age
If sufficient evidence can be presented to the jury to show that a reasonable person would have difficulty determining the age of the alleged victim, this defense can be effective.
The Person Making the Claim Is Actually 16
In order for the statutory rape charge to stick, one of the parties must be younger than 16. There have been cases when a person’s parents have not told them the full truth about the year they were born.
Remember, it’s up to the prosecution to prove your guilt. Being charged with statutory rape is very different from a conviction. The key is to make things as difficult as possible for the prosecution and minimize your exposure to conviction.
What is the Punishment for Statutory Rape in Ohio?
The ages of the adult and the minor who had sex will have a big impact on the legal consequences if there’s a conviction.
- If the person charged with the crime is less than four years older than the victim, the charge is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
- If the defendant is four or more years older – but less than ten – it’s a fourth-degree felony with a maximum punishment of up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
- In cases where the defendant is ten or more years older than the victim, the charge is a third-degree felony, and the defendant could face five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
- If the victim is a minor younger than 13, it’s a first-degree felony and the sentencing could be at least three years – possibly even a life sentence in prison.
Earlier this year, a Clark County man was sentenced to 15 years in prison for sexually abusing a child under the age of 13.
In addition to jail time and fines, the defendant may also have to register as a sex offender.
Is There a Statute of Limitations for Rape Charges In Ohio?
While more than half of the states in the U.S. do not have a statute of limitations for rape charges, Ohio has a 25-year limitation.
That may change, though, as elected representatives are pushing legislation to end time limits on rape charges.
The seriousness of sex crimes in general – especially statutory rape – cannot be overstated. Even the allegation can turn your life upside-down. If you’re facing such charges or feel you might be, your best chance for clearing your good name is to contact a Dayton criminal defense lawyer who will mount a vigorous defense on your behalf.