New Hampshire has some of the strictest statutory rape laws in the country -- making the act of sexual intercourse with anyone under age 16 a felony punishable by up to 7 years in prison. These laws can even apply if you yourself are just a year or two older than your significant other and the sex was consensual. If you're accused of statutory rape for having consensual sex with someone age 15 or under, what are your options? Read on to learn more about this area of law and some potential defenses you could be able to raise to reduce the severity or length of your sentence.
Why is statutory rape different from other types of crimes?
Many of the laws criminalizing offenses against other people contain mitigating factors. These mitigators can allow you to admit to the act itself but explain that you had the other party's consent to perform the act. For example, if you're arrested for illegally entering your friend's home to remove property but can show that your friend texted you from out of town asking you to do this on his or her behalf, your arrest will be vacated or your criminal case dismissed.
However, when it comes to sex with someone under the legal age of consent, this crime is classified as a per se crime, and admission of the act (even with mitigating factors like consent) is enough to find you guilty. This means that even if you can demonstrate that the sex was consensual -- and sometimes, even if you yourself aren't yet legally an adult -- you will be convicted of felony sexual assault.
What are some potential defenses to felony sexual assault?
If you're charged with this crime, the most foolproof defense is to show that you and the alleged victim never had sex. The statutory definition of sexual intercourse includes oral, anal, and vaginal sex, so to succeed, this defense will mean testifying under penalty of perjury that no sexual activity took place.
If you and your partner did have sex, but it was consensual and/or he or she was the aggressor in the situation, you may be able to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor if you don't have a criminal record and this is your first brush with the law. This can allow the prosecutor to tender an agreement for a misdemeanor conviction to the judge, which will help preserve some of your rights (like the ability to borrow federal student loans or own a firearm) and avoid a felony conviction. Contact a sex crime attorney for more information.