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Exceptions to Statutory Rape in Pennsylvania

Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C. March 18, 2022

In Pennsylvania, it is a crime for someone older than 18 years of age to have sex with a person younger than 16 years of age — even if the younger person gives consent. This crime is known as statutory rape since it is defined as rape by legal statute and does not require proof of anything other than the sexual act and the age of the minor.

If you are charged with statutory rape, you can face between 10 and 20 years in prison, along with a fine of up to $25,000 depending on the age difference. If you are four or more years older but less than 11 years older than the victim, the prison term is up to 10 years. If the age difference is 11 years or more, the prison term stretches to 20 years.

In addition, you will carry a criminal record with you for the rest of your life and you could be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life.

If you are under investigation for or being charged with the crime of statutory rape in or around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, including Fox Chapel, Ross Township, Shaler Township, Penn Hills, Aspinwall, and Indiana Township, contact me at — Marc V. Taiani, Esquire and Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C. — immediately.

As a criminal defense attorney, I will listen to your story, investigate, and develop a strong defense strategy to assert your rights and aim for the best available outcome.

Statutory Rape in Pennsylvania

Statutory rape in Pennsylvania is first and foremost based on the age of the victim. Sixteen is considered the age of consent in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Sex with a child who is 13, 14, or 15 years of age is called statutory sexual assault — aka statutory rape -— and it includes genital, oral, or anal penetration, however slight.

As mentioned earlier, the age difference determines the charge and potential penalties. If the age difference is between four and 10 years, it is a second-degree felony. Eleven years or more is a first-degree felony.

When the victim is younger than 13 years old, the offense is rape and is a first-degree felony. The penalties include up to 40 years in prison and a fine of $25,000.

Exceptions and Defenses

Pennsylvania allows what is known as a Romeo and Juliet provision, so named after the principal characters in Shakespeare’s play of the same name. Note that the age difference for statutory rape has to be four years or more. In other words, an 18-year-old and a 15-year-old can engage in sexual intercourse without breaching the statutory rape barrier since they are only three years apart in age. They fall under the Romeo and Juliet exception.

Unlike some other states, Pennsylvania also has a provision for a reasonable mistake of age. Pennsylvania law states:

“When criminality depends on the child being below a critical age older than 14 years, it is a defense for the defendant to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she reasonably believed the child to be above the critical age.”

Note, however, that this provision does not apply to any victim 13 years old or younger. If a 20-year-old has sex with a 15-year-old who presents a fake ID showing his or her age to be 16, that can be used as a defense to a charge of statutory rape. If the victim with the false ID is 13 years old or younger, there is no defense.

A 2020 Pennsylvania law also made it illegal for someone under the age of 18 years to obtain a marriage license, but minors married before the law took effect may be able to avoid charges of statutory rape.

Other than these exceptions, a common defense is to assert and prove that no sex act took place. Remember that oral, genital, or anal penetration has to take place, however slight.

Call a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney

If you’re convicted of statutory rape, you not only will face possible severe penalties but you will also be required to register as a sex offender and will have a criminal record that will haunt you throughout your life, threatening job prospects and creditworthiness, to say nothing of ruining your reputation. Your life will never be the same.

If you’re being investigated for statutory rape or facing charges, you need to contact me immediately at Marc V. Taiani, Esquire and Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C. Let me investigate and fight for the best available defense.

I proudly serve clients in and around Pittsburgh, and nearby in Fox Chapel, Ross Township, Shaler Township, Penn Hills, Aspinwall, and Indiana Township, among other neighboring areas of Pennsylvania.