Statutory Rape Laws and PenaltiesComments Off on Statutory Rape Laws and Penalties
To engage in sexual activity, both partners must provide consent. Consent refers to the words or conduct that indicate agreement to sexual activity. A person who is heavily intoxicated, asleep, or lacks the mental capacity to understand the sexual activity cannot provide consent.
Additionally, a minor who is below the age of consent cannot lawfully agree to sexual activity. If an adult has sexual contact with a minor below the age of consent, he or she can face criminal charges for statutory rape.
Washington Age of Consent Laws
In Washington, the age of consent is 16 years old. When a person reaches the age of 16, he or she can legally consent to sexual activity with an adult who is 18 years of older. These laws apply to both heterosexual and same sex partners.
Some states have close-in-age exemptions, where a minor below the age of consent may engage in sexual activity with an older partner, as long as he or she is close in age to the minor. Washington does not allow this exemption; it is illegal for any person above the age of 16 to engage in sexual activity with a minor. However, state laws do make an exception for married couples, depending on the age gap and the age of the younger spouse.
What Is Considered Statutory Rape in Washington?
If a person above the age of 16 engages in sexual activity with a minor under the age of 16, that individual has committed statutory rape. Additionally, there are some situations where a minor above the age of 16 but below the age of 18 cannot consent to sexual activity.
- When sexual activity occurs between a foster parent and a foster child, statutory rape laws apply if the child is under the age of 18.
- When sexual activity occurs between a teacher or school employee and a student, statutory rape laws apply if the student is under the age of 21.
Another exception to the age of consent law involves sexual activity between two parties with a significant relationship. An older person has a significant relationship with a younger person if he or she meets the following criteria.
- The older person provides education, health, welfare, or recreation for minors either professionally or as a volunteer.
- The older person supervises minors or provides care to elderly or vulnerable people as part of his or her job.
If the older person is at least 60 months older, the younger person is above the age of 16 but younger than 18, and the parties have a significant relationship, statutory rape laws will apply.
Statutory Rape Penalties
Statutory rape convictions can result in serious consequences for Washington residents. The potential penalties depend on the specific charge against the older person and the circumstances surrounding the unlawful sexual activity.
- First-degree child molestation, first-degree rape of a child, and second-degree rape of a child may result in up to life in prison and/or a fine up to $50,000.
- Second-degree child molestation may result in up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine up to $20,000.
- Third-degree rape of a child and third-degree child molestation may result in up to five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.
If you are facing statutory rape charges in Washington, contact a Tacoma sex crimes attorney. A lawyer can protect you against these accusations and advocate for your side of the story to the court. Speak to a defense lawyer as soon as possible following your arrest to discuss your legal options.