Even if it is consensual, having intercourse with someone under the age of 16 is considered statutory rape in Georgia and could carry serious penalties.
For some in Georgia, love may bloom early. Often, people may choose to act on those feelings and take their relationship to the next level. Depending on a couple’s age, however, getting intimate with a partner may be considered a criminal offense. Being convicted of statutory rape charges can carry significant penalties, which may have lasting implications.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently reported that a 16-year-old girl was charged with statutory rape following an encounter with a 14-year-old classmate. The two middle school students had consensual intercourse in a school bathroom. They acknowledged what transpired between them to school officials who had witnessed them entering and exiting the restroom together on video footage.
Defining statutory rape
Under Title 16, Chapter 6 of the Georgia Code, the state defines statutory rape as sexual intercourse with someone who is under 16-years-old. This is true even if it is consensual. The legal age of consent in the state of Georgia is 16. Therefore, those under that age cannot legally agree to have sex. The law provides exception for those who are married. Depending on the circumstances, statutory rape may be a misdemeanor or felony sex assault charge.
Romeo and Juliet provision
Often, young people between the ages of 14 and 18-years-old attend school together. This can spark relationships, which could potentially lead to situations that may be construed as statutory rape. The law contains a provision, often referred to as the Romeo and Juliet provision, which may lessen the charge.
According to the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, this provision may apply to children who are 18, or younger, who have intercourse with someone who is at least 14-years-old. Under the provision, the charge of statutory rape is reduced from a felony offense to a misdemeanor. It does not, however, affect the minimum age of consent, or make sexual activity legal in these cases.
The penalties for statutory rape can vary depending on the circumstances and whether the charge is a misdemeanor or felony. Under state law, a felony conviction on this charge is punishable by a minimum of one year in jail. The maximum sentence is up to 20 years in prison. The law stipulates further that anyone convicted of this crime who is at least 21-years-old be sentenced to between 10 and 20 years in prison.
As is the case with most misdemeanor offenses, the consequences for a misdemeanor conviction on this charge are generally less severe. These penalties can nonetheless be very serious. In general, the penalties may include jail for up to one year, probation, community service or fines.
Working with an attorney
Statutory rape can be a very serious charge, with potentially severe consequences. As such, people who have been charged with this offense may benefit from seeking legal counsel and representation. An attorney may help them understand their rights and options, as well as aid in defending the charges against them.