I heard a man got 7 years in prison for statutory rape. How is that?
3 Answers from Attorneys
Statutory rape is a very hard crime to defend. It is what we call "strict liability" sometimes, even through that term is usually reserved for tort crimes.
Essentially, when you have statutory rape, you can't claim defenses like you "didn't know the age" or "you thought they were older", etc. All of that is no defense to a statutory crime such as rape.
The length of the sentence is usually 'set in stone' via statute.
I respectfully disagree with the prior answer. It is NOT a "strict liability" crime. An honest and good faith belief that the person was over 18 is a defense.
As to why a person got 7 years - I have no idea. Prior strikes? Prison priors? Other charges associated with the statutory rape? Not enough details to take a guess.
I agree with Mr. Dane. Statutory rape is sometimes *called* a strict liability crime, because its definition doesn't include knowledge that the other person was a minor. But such knowledge is an affirmative defense. A defendant can defeat the charge by showing he believed the other person was an adult.
That may sound like a mere formality, but it's not. If knowledge of the minor's age was an element of the crime, then prosecutors would have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. Since it's not, they don't have to prove what the defendant knew at all. Defendants bear the burden of proof as to affirmative defenses, but do not have to prove them beyond a reasonable doubt.
A defendant who only wants to argue that the prosecutor hasn't proved her case doesn't have to offer any evidence. But he does if he wants to prove an affirmative defense. Since this particular affirmative defense is about what the defendant believed, the only way to prove it will usually be via his own testimony. That doesn't violate his Fifth-Amendment right not to testify since that right applies only to disputing the charges and not to asserting affirmative defenses.
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