The case is now in the hands of the Athens-Clarke County Juvenile Court as of last Friday afternoon. A sexual encounter, between a 16-year-old male student and a 15-year-old female student, was recorded on a surveillance video in a school stairwell at Clarke Central High School. Although the encounter happened early last week, the video footage was not discovered by school officials until Thursday. The 16-year-old male student was charged with one count of misdemeanor statutory rape in Clarke County.
Statutory rape in Georgia is commonly misunderstood. Usually, the confusion stems from the term, rape. According to Georgia law, a person commits rape in Georgia when he has carnal knowledge of a female forcibly against her will. With statutory rape, the law does not require an element of force for someone to be in violation. The only element that matters when facing a statutory rape charge is the age of both the accused person and the victim.
16-years-old is the age of consent in Georgia. Age of consent means that 16-years-old is the minimum age that someone can consent to sexual activity. People under the age of 16 are legally unable to consent to sexual activity.
Georgia law defines statutory rape as:
“(a) A person commits the offense of statutory rape when he or she engages in sexual intercourse with any person under the age of 16 years and not his or her spouse, provided that no conviction shall be had for this offense on the unsupported testimony of the victim. (b) Except as provided in subsection (c) of this Code section, a person convicted of the offense of statutory rape shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than 20 years; provided, however, that if the person so convicted is 21 years of age or older, such person shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than ten nor more than 20 years. Any person convicted under this subsection of the offense of statutory rape shall, in addition, be subject to the sentencing and punishment provisions of Code Section 17-10-6.2. (c) If the victim is at least 14 but less than 16 years of age and the person convicted of statutory rape is 18 years of age or younger and is no more than four years older than the victim, such person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.” O.C.G.A. §16-6-3.
Provision (c) of the statute is known as a “Romeo and Juliet” law. If the victim is between 14 and 16-years-old and the accused person is 18-years-old and is not more than four years older than the victim, then he or she will only face misdemeanor charges. This is why the 16-year-old Clarke Central High School student is facing misdemeanor statutory rape.
To be convicted, as with any other crime, the state of Georgia must show that the accused person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If the convicted person is under 21-years-old, then he or she is facing anywhere from one to twenty years imprisonment. If the convicted person is over 21-years-old, then he or she is facing ten to twenty years imprisonment and will have to register as a sex offender in the state of Georgia for life. If the ages of the victim and the convicted person fall into the range stated in (c) of the §16-6-3, then he or she will be facing a misdemeanor, which is a sentence of fewer than 12 months.
Also, unlike other criminal offenses where criminal intent is a necessary element of the offense, specific intent is not an element of the crime of statutory rape. Statutory Rape is more akin to a traffic offense. As with a traffic violation, the act alone is sufficient to convict. Statutory Rape is a "strict liability offense."
Statutory rape is a serious charge, and it is essential to have an experienced Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer to help you with your case. If you or a loved one has been charged with statutory rape, contact us today.