In North Carolina, the crime of forcible rape is the crime of a male aggressor engaging in sexual intercourse without the consent of the female victim through the use of force. The state law defines two different degrees of the criminal charge of forcible rape, with first-degree forcible rape being a more serious crime than second-degree.
North Carolina’s Statutory Rape of a Child by an Adult
What Is Statutory Rape?
The crime of statutory rape is not the same as forcible rape under North Carolina law. In North Carolina, the age at which a person can consent to sexual activity is 16. An adult who has consensual sex with a child who is less than 16 years old is subject to being charged with statutory rape. However, various factors determine how serious the charge is. These factors would include the age of the victim, whether the adult had a role in the child’s life, and others.
How Is Statutory Rape Criminalized in North Carolina?
There are actually three different statutory rape crimes in North Carolina. They are statutory rape of a child by an adult, first-degree statutory rape, and statutory rape of a person who is 15 years of age or younger. All of the different statutory rape crimes involve a perpetrator having consensual sexual intercourse with a victim who is younger than they are as follows:
- Statutory rape (or sexual offense) of a child by an adult: A person is charged with this crime if they are over the age of 18 and the alleged partner in consensual sexual activity is under the age of 13. If convicted, the perpetrator is guilty of a Class B1 felony and may face life in prison without the possibility of parole;
- First-degree statutory rape (or sexual offense): First-degree statutory rape is charged in cases in which the victim is 12 years old or younger, the perpetrator is at least 12 years old, at least 4 years older than the victim, and accused of having consensual sexual intercourse with the younger partner. This crime is a Class B1 felony.
- If a person is convicted, they may be punished by a term of imprisonment from 144 months to life without the possibility of parole;
- Statutory rape (or sexual offense) of a person who is 15 years old or younger: If a perpetrator engages in consensual sexual acts with a person who is under the age of consent, 16, and there is a six-year age difference or more between them, they may be found guilty of a Class B1 felony.
- However, if the age difference is over 4 but less than 6 years, such as a 19-year-old and a 15-year-old, the charge is reduced to a Class C felony charge;
- Sexual activity by a substitute parent or custodian: This crime is charged if the perpetrator has had a parental role in the life of the minor. For example, they might have been a foster parent or babysitter. If they commit a sex offense against the minor while they are in their car, they can be charged with a Class E felony;
- Taking indecent liberties with a minor: For statutory rape offenses to be committed in North Carolina, there must be intercourse with or sexual penetration of the victim with a body part or object. However, if a perpetrator who is five years older than a child takes indecent liberties with the child, this too is a crime, specifically a Class F felony.
- It encompasses such acts as a lewd or lascivious act upon a minor or taking liberties for the purpose of arousal or sexual gratification.
Parole is a kind of early release from a term of imprisonment. It is also referred to as “provisional release” or “supervised release.” Usually, if a person serving a term of imprisonment is granted parole, they agree to follow certain rules or observe specific behavioral conditions, such as checking on a regular basis with their parole officer.
If the person violates the terms of their parole, they can be returned to prison. If a person is sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, it means they must spend the rest of their life in prison without any possibility of ever winning their release.
What Is Statutory Rape of a Child by an Adult in North Carolina?
Statutory rape of a child by an adult is a Class B1 felony in North Carolina. It occurs when a person who is 18 years old or older engages in consensual sexual intercourse with a minor who is under 13 years old.
Is Sexual Battery the Same as Statutory Rape of a Child by an Adult?
Sexual battery is not the same as statutory rape of a child by an adult. Under North Carolina law, sexual battery occurs when a person intentionally engages in sexual contact with another person for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse. The perpetrator commits sexual contact by either touching the private parts or various other body parts of the victim. This contact is achieved through the use of force and without the victim’s consent.
In North Carolina, statutory rape of a child by an adult requires actual sexual intercourse. In addition, in the crime of statutory rape, the minor consented to the sexual contact. However, the law says that a person under the age of 16 cannot consent to sexual intercourse, so it is a crime, the crime of statutory rape. It is not achieved through the use of force and without the victim’s consent. If it is achieved through the use of force or violence, it is the crime of sexual battery.
What Is the Punishment for Statutory Rape of a Child by an Adult in North Carolina?
The punishment for a Class C felony in North Carolina is 44 to 182 months in prison. Where a person falls in this range of terms depends on whether they have prior convictions and whether the priors are for felony or misdemeanor criminal offenses.
As noted above, the punishment for statutory rape of a child by an adult and first-degree statutory rape is life in prison without the possibility of parole. It is either a Class C felony or a Class B1, for which the punishment is from 144 months to life in prison without parole, in part depending on the prior convictions of the perpetrator.
The crime of sexual activity by a substitute parent or custodian can be charged as a Class E felony for which the punishment is 15 to 63 months in prison. A Class F felony, taking indecent liberties with a minor, can be punished by 10 to 41 months in prison.
Are There Any Defenses to Statutory Rape in North Carolina?
North Carolina recognizes what is commonly referred to as a “Romeo and Juliet” exemption. This exemption applies in cases in which a minor of any age and a person who is at least 12 years old and no more than four years older than the minor engage in consensual sex. For example, a 17-year-old who has consensual sex with a 15-year-old could not be charged with a crime in North Carolina.
As in most states, a perpetrator who claims that they thought their partner was old enough to consent or was told they were does not have a defense claim of mistake of age in North Carolina.
Should I Contact a Criminal Lawyer?
If you have been charged with statutory rape of a child by an adult, you definitely want to consult an experienced North Carolina criminal defense lawyer.
LegalMatch.com can connect you to a lawyer who is knowledgeable about the complexities of North Carolina criminal law and can guide you through the process to the best possible result in your case. Given the potential of a term of life in prison without parole for certain sex offenses in North Carolina, it is essential to be represented by a lawyer in that state.
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