Protecting our children is the goal and purpose of New Ydork’s statutory rape laws. If you are facing a statutory rape charge on Long Island or in New York City – whether you are entirely innocent or guilty as charged – contact a Nassau County criminal defense attorney immediately.
What is the definition of statutory rape in the State of New York? What penalties may be handed down if someone is convicted of statutory rape? If you are the person being accused, what can a Nassau County statutory rape attorney do to defend you against a charge of statutory rape?
If you’ll keep reading this brief introduction to New York’s statutory rape law, you will learn the answers to these questions, and you’ll learn what your legal rights and options are if you are facing a statutory rape charge in this state.
How Is Statutory Rape Defined?
Laws against statutory rape presume that minors cannot legally consent to engage in sexual activities. Most states distinguish between consenting sex among minors who are close in age (for instance, two teens nearly the same age), as opposed to consensual sex between an older adult and a minor.
In New York, it is against the law for an adult (anyone 18 or older) to engage in sex with minors (anyone below age 17), even if that sex is consensual. Breaking this law constitutes statutory rape. The details of the law are spelled out below.
Force may not be involved, but statutory rape is still considered rape. Other sexual crimes against minors may be charged under New York’s sexual assault laws or under the state’s child and sexual abuse laws.
What Does New York’s Statutory Rape Law Provide?
First-degree statutory rape in New York is sexual intercourse between a minor under age 11 and a defendant regardless of age, or between a minor below age 13 and an adult. First-degree statutory rape is a Class B felony punishable upon conviction with at least 5 and as much as 25 years in a New York state prison.
Second-degree statutory rape is sexual intercourse between an adult age 18 or older and a minor under age 15, unless the age difference is less than four years. Second-degree statutory rape is a Class D felony punishable upon conviction with a prison sentence of up to seven years.
Third-degree statutory rape is sexual intercourse between a minor under age 17 and a defendant 21 or older. Third-degree statutory rape is a Class E felony punishable upon conviction with a prison term of up to four years.
What Are the “Extra-Legal” Penalties for a Statutory Rape Conviction?
An adult convicted of statutory rape will not only have a harsh sentence imposed by the court but will also be dealing – for many years – with the substantial extra-legal consequences of a statutory rape conviction.
After a conviction for statutory rape, when you apply for work, housing, or loans, you may be rejected if your conviction appears in a background check, and you’ll also be rejected by some universities and colleges.
If you’re a non-citizen in New York, a statutory rape conviction may trigger a deportation proceeding. If you hold a professional license, a statutory rape conviction almost certainly will lead to disciplinary action by your professional licensing board.
If you’re charged in the future with another offense, you will have a previous conviction, so you will probably face harsher penalties for a conviction than a first-time offender would face for the same charge.
What Is New York’s “Romeo and Juliet” Provision?
Named for the teenagers in the Shakespeare play, New York’s “Romeo and Juliet” provision protects teenagers from the most severe criminal charges when they have consenting sex with a minor near their age.
The law provides a partial exception for consenting sex between minors who are 15 or 16 and anyone under age 21. The law also provides a partial exception for consenting sex between minors ages 11 to 14 years and defendants who are under age 17.
Any contact of a sexual nature with anyone under 11 years old is generally prosecuted as a felony in New York.
How Long Do Authorities Have to File Statutory Rape Charges?
Under legislation adopted by New York in 2019, there is no statute of limitations for first-degree statutory rape. It’s a charge that authorities may now bring against a defendant years or even decades after the incident.
In 2019, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that abolished the five-year statute of limitations for first-degree statutory rape.
The same legislation extended from five to twenty years the statute of limitations for second-degree statutory rape, and it extended from five to ten years the statute of limitations for third-degree statutory rape.
How Can You Fight a Statutory Rape Accusation?
A number of possible defenses are available to someone who is charged with statutory rape in New York. The strongest defense is that the alleged crime never happened, the charge is fabricated, and the accusation is false.
Defendants who are charged with statutory rape sometimes claim they didn’t know that the victim was below age 17. However, even when this claim is true, even an understandable mistake of age will not be accepted in New York as a legal defense against statutory rape.
Depending on the details of the case, a Nassau County criminal defense attorney will fight for the justice a defendant needs by employing the most effective possible defense strategy.
Your lawyer will fight aggressively to beat the charges brought against you and to clear your name, but if the evidence against you is overwhelming, your lawyer may negotiate for a lesser charge or for a reduced penalty (for example, probation rather than prison).
What Else Should You Know?
Finally, if you are placed under arrest and charged with statutory rape, know and exercise your rights.
You have the right to remain silent and the right to legal counsel. Be cooperative with the police, and simply say, “I am exercising my right to remain silent and I would like to speak to an attorney.”
Statutory rape is a serious charge. If you’re facing this charge, you will need serious legal help, so you must contact a Nassau County statutory rape attorney as quickly as possible.