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Teen Life Q&A: The Limits of Statutory Rape

What is the statute of limitations on statutory rape?


I’m 6 years older than my girlfriend and we started having sex a few months ago while she was still under age. She’s at the Age of Consent where we live now but I wonder if I can later be charged for statutory rape for the time we had sex while she was too young. If I make her mad and we break up can she try to have me charged? We’re thinking of moving in together when she finishes high school and her parents aren’t too pleased, could they have me charged as a way to control us and stop us? Or am I OK now that she is at the Age of Consent?

Yes you can still be charged for the criminal act of having sex with a minor even if that minor reaches the age of consent and continues to have sex with you. The fact that circumstances have changed so that you are no longer breaking the law by having sex with her doesn’t change the fact that in the past you did break the law. Sorry. I know that is not what you want to hear but the reality is you have broken the law and until the statute of limitations on your crime runs out you are still vulnerable to prosecution.

What is a statute of limitations? It is the time limit the law puts on police and prosecutors to lay charges in a crime. The statute of limitations was put in place in order to ensure that people are swiftly brought to justice by police and to allow people to move on with their lives without fear of past deeds coming back to get them after they have reformed themselves. It is a controversial legal premise. Murder and treason are the only crimes that do not have a time limit and many people think this is unfair to victims. Victims rights groups point out that victims live with the effects of the crime for their entire lives and that in the interest of justice criminals should have to do the same. However, as things stand now every crime has a statute of limitations attached.

What is the statute of limitations on statutory rape? The statute of limitations on statutory rape varies from state to state and depends on whether the crime is prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor is considered less serious than a felony and in most states it carries a shorter statute of limitations. Whether an incident of statutory rape is prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony often depends on the age difference between the two parties. For example, in California the statute of limitations on misdemeanor statutory rape is one year and is charged when the two people involved are less than three years apart in age at the time of the crime, if the two people are more than three years apart at the time of the crime the charge become a felony and the statute of limitations increases to three years. To find out more about the differences between misdemeanor and felony statutory rape, including the statutes of limitations on each, contact your state Attorney Generals Office.

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