Statutory rape?

Dear Alice,


I'm a 26-year-old male having sex with a 16-year-old girl. Is this against the law?


Dear Reader,

Your sexual relationship may or may not be legal depending on the state or country where you’re having sex. In general, sexual intercourse with a minor (age depends on where the incident takes place and the particular situation) by a non-minor (at least 5 years older than the victim), also known as statutory rape, is a crime and punishable by law in the United States. The age of consent differs from state to state. For example, under the New York Penal Code, the age of consent is 17 years of age. Abroad, different rules may apply.

According to Article 130 (Sexual Offenses) of the New York Penal Code, if the perpetrator is over 21 years old and the victim is under 17, this is known as third degree rape. if the perpetrator is 18 or older and the victim is under 15, then this is second degree rape. If the victim is younger than 11 years of age, then first degree rape has been committed.

The severity of the punishment varies according to the charge. In New York State, third degree rape has a maximum sentence of 4 years, second degree rape has a maximum sentence 7 years, and first degree rape has a maximum sentence range of 25 years. Of course, sentencing also depends on multiple variables of each individual case, and therefore may or may not follow these sentencing guidelines.

You can seek out specific legal information regarding statutory rape where you live by calling your local police department's sex crimes division or rape hotline. Remember that age of consent laws are in place to prevent young people from being exploited by adults. There’s a good chance that the maturity and sexual experience is quite different between a teenager and a person in his/her mid-twenties. This could lead the teenager to offer verbal consent despite being uncomfortable, or make a decision that might later be regretted. In light of these consequences, as well as the law, you may want to reconsider your relationship.

Last updated Aug 21, 2012
Originally published Jan 24, 1997

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