In Pennsylvania, statutory rape is called Statutory sexual assault. The definition of this offense is found in the Pennsylvania Crimes Code at 18 Pa.C.S. Sec. 3122.1. Statutory sexual assault occurs when an individual has sexual intercourse with a child under the age of sixteen (16). Sixteen is the age of consent in Pennsylvania. In order to be convicted under this section, a defendant must be four (4) or more years older than the victim.
The following examples will help you understand statutory rape law in Pennsylvania:
EXAMPLE #1: A young man that is 18 years 11 months old has sexual intercourse with a female that just turned 15 years old. Is this relationship legal in Pennsylvania?
Answer: Yes. The young man is 3 years 11 months older than the victim. He is less than four years older.
EXAMPLE #2: The same fact pattern as example #1 except that the young man turned 19 years old 1 month ago. Is this relationship legal in Pennsylvania?
Answer: No. He would be 4 or more years older than the victim.
EXAMPLE #3: A new Assistant District Attorney gets a call from an irate father. The father insists that he wants to prosecute a 52 year old man who is having sex with his 16 year old daughter. All sexual relations occurred after her 16th birthday. Should the Assistant District Attorney file criminal charges against the 52 year old?
Answer: No. 16 years old is the age of consent in Pennsylvania. The daughter may have sex with anyone so long as they are older than 12.
Example #4: The same fact pattern as example #3 except sexual intercourse occurred the night before her 16th birthday. Can the 52 year old be prosecuted?
Answer: Yes. At the time of the sexual intercourse, she was under the age of 16.Mistake as to Age
Historically, statutory rape was a strict liability crime and mistake as to the age of the victim was no defense. However, pursuant to the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, 18 Pa.C.S. Sec. 3102, "when criminality depends on the child being below a critical age older than 14" the defense must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that "he or she reasonably believed the child to be above the critical age." Conversely, when the criminality of one's conduct depends on the child being below the age of 14, mistake as to age is no defense and Statutory Sexual Assault would becomes a strict liability offense. What does this mean without the legalese? It means if you have sex with someone between the ages of 14 and 16, you may defend the case on the basis that you thought he or she was older than 16 or above 14 and less than 4 years younger than you. You have to prove this by a preponderance of the evidence. Preponderance of the evidence means the jury must be 51% certain that you were mistaken as to the victim's age.
If you or a loved one has been charged with Statutory Sexual Assault, contact former Assistant District Attorney, Jason R. Antoine Attorney at Law PLLC, statutory rape defense lawyer.