In New Hampshire, the age of consent for heterosexual sexual conduct is 16. The age of consent for homosexual sexual conduct is 18. This makes New Hampshire one of the few states explicitly permitting homosexual conduct by explicitly setting an age of consent. Of course, engaging in sexual conduct with a person who is under the age of consent means that a person can be charged with statutory rape.

Many states have two or more ages of consent; in some states, there is one for females and another for males. But that is not the case in New Hampshire, which has a single age of consent. In the majority of other states, there is an exception for a pair of minors who are under the age of consent, but close to the same age. If they engage in consensual sexual activity, the would not be charged with statutory rape.

New Hampshire does not have an exception for sex involving minors who are close in age. So, if two 15-year-old youngsters were to engage in consensual sexual activity, they could both be charged with statutory rape.

And, in New Hampshire, a person who is 16 years old cannot legally have sex with a person who is 15, even if they are going to turn 16 in a day.

A person can be charged with the crime of sexual assault in New Hampshire by:

  • Engaging in any sexual contact with a child who is at least 13 years old, but under the age of 16, when the perpetrator is five or more years older, or
  • Engaging in sexual penetration with a child who is at least 13 but under 16 when the perpetrator is less than four years older than the child.

Statutory rape is punished more severely, as the crime of felonious sexual assault, if the perpetrator is four or more years older than the victim and the assault involves sexual penetration of any kind. Statutory rape is also punished more severely when it involves incest. It is also punished more severely if the perpetrator is in a position of authority over the child, and the child is under the age of 18.

Any sexual contact with a child under the age of 13 constitutes the crime of aggravated felonious sexual assault or felonious sexual assault. A conviction for sexual contact with a child younger than 13 is punishable by significant prison time.

Inviting or trying to persuade a child under the age of 16 to engage in sexual activity, whether done face-to-face or by computer, is also illegal in New Hampshire. This is so regardless of whether any sexual activity, or even a face-to-face meeting, ever occurs. In New Hampshire, law enforcement officers routinely pose online as children interested in sex with older men. Perpetrators are routinely arrested and prosecuted for child enticement as a result of the law enforcement sting operations.

Are There Any Defenses to a Statutory Rape Charge in New Hampshire?

Defendants charged with statutory rape have the usual defenses available to all criminal defendants, such as claiming that they have been mistakenly identified as the perpetrator. Or, they might claim that the alleged criminal conduct did not take place.

The “Romeo and Juliet” exception to a statutory rape charge is available in many states. Named for the characters in William Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, these exceptions protect young people from criminal charges that might result from consensual sexual activity with other teens, when they are both close in age.

In New Hampshire, it is not a crime to engage in consensual sexual conduct short of penetration with a person over the age of 13 unless the defendant is at least five years older, and consensual penetration with a person over the age of 13 by a person within four years in age is a misdemeanor. In addition, anyone convicted of this misdemeanor offense would not have to register as a sex offender.

For example, it is not a crime in New Hampshire if a 17-year-old engages in consensual touching with a 14-year-old. Engaging in consensual sex with a 15-year-old is a felony, if the defendant is 27 years old, but it is a misdemeanor only if the perpetrator is 18.

Under New Hampshire’s law, if the perpetrator and a child over the age of 13 are married and their sexual activity is consensual, this constitutes a defense to a charge of statutory rape. This defense is part of the marital rape exemption that has historically protected men from facing criminal charges for raping their wives.

In New Hampshire, as in most states, it is not a defense to a statutory rape charge to claim that the perpetrator believed the child to be over the age of 16 or 18, depending on the nature of the conduct.

In New Hampshire, the crime of sexual assault is a Class A misdemeanor that is punished by as much as one in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. The crime of felonious sexual assault is a Class B felony. It is punished by as much as seven years in prison and a fine of up to $4,000.

The crime of aggravated felonious sexual assault is punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison, and a fine of up to $4,000. In addition to imprisonment and a fine, the perpetrator can be subjected to lifetime supervision by the New Hampshire Department of Corrections. A second and subsequent conviction of aggravated felonious sexual assault would be punished even more severely.

Generally, in New Hampshire people who are convicted of sexual assault must register as sex offenders. There is an exception only for people who are convicted of sexual assault as a result of sexual activity with a person who is at least 13 and who is fewer than four years younger than the perpetrator, so a perpetrator who is under the age of 17. These people are not required to register as sex offenders.

Any person who is registered as a sex offender in New Hampshire should be accessible for drop-ins, compliance checks, and random inspections by law enforcement investigators. If a sex offender has multiple residences, they must report each one to their local enforcement agency and share the addresses for all of their residences, even if one or more of them is out-of-state.

A sex offender should register within five business days after being released from jail or prison. Or, if relocating to the state from elsewhere, they should, within five business days, post the date of establishing their residence, schooling or employment in New Hampshire.

Once the first time registration is complete, sex offenders must continue reporting as described below. All tier I and II sex offenders have to report semi-annually in person within five business days after every anniversary of their birth. After that, they must report every six months.

All tier III sex offenders need to report every quarter and within five business day after their birthday and after that every three months. If a sex offender does not complete the registration requirements in New Hampshire, they may face a parole or probation violation which can land them in jail or prison again.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help for a Charge of Statutory Rape in New Hampshire?

If you have been charged with statutory rape or any other sex crime in the state of New Hampshire, you most definitely want to consult with an experienced New Hampshire criminal defense lawyer. Your lawyer can analyze the facts of your case and help you prepare a defense.

Or, if you believe that you are required to register as a sex offender in New Hampshire, but are unsure of your obligations, an experienced criminal defense attorney can explain your full obligation to you and help you make sure you comply in full with all registration requirements.