Statutory rape can carry stiff consequences for people, and defendants need to understand exactly what this charge means.

People commit statutory rape when they have sexual relations with someone under the age of consent. FindLaw says that people can face statutory rape charges even if the encounter was consensual. This is because the age of the minor is what matters. If people are below the age of consent, they cannot legally agree to engage in sexual relations.

How old do people need to be?

The age of consent depends on state law. According to AgeOfConsent.net, North Carolina residents have to be 16 to legally give consent to a sexual encounter. Statutory rape laws concern minors between the ages of 13 and 15. This means that legal adults may face these charges if they have a sexual relationship with someone 15 years old or younger. If people younger than 13 engage in a sexual encounter, the offense is a sexual offense and not statutory rape.

What are the penalties for statutory rape?

People face serious consequences if a court convicts them of statutory rape. In North Carolina, this offense may be either a Class B1 or a Class C felony, depending on the age difference between the participants. If people are four to six years older than a minor, they usually face Class C felony charges. The offense typically becomes a Class B1 felony if people are more than six years older than a minor.

If people receive a B1 felony conviction, they may face a prison sentence of at least 25 years. A Class C felony conviction may require people to spend between 3 and 15 years in jail. Even if people do not receive a conviction, statutory rape charges can have a deep impact on their lives. People may lose their reputation or have fewer opportunities.