Unlike forcible sexual assault, which requires a lack of consent, statutory sexual offenses consist of sexual contact between an underage person and an adult or two adults who have a relationship that prohibits sexual contact, even if the contact was consensual. In North Carolina, the age of consent is 16, so statutory rape describes a sexual relationship between an adult and anyone younger than 16.
Someone who has received a charge of statutory rape must understand the state laws about this type of crime.
Statutory rape vs. statutory sexual offenses
North Carolina defines statutory rape as forcible vaginal intercourse. Sexual contact that falls outside this category is a statutory sexual offense. Although the degrees of these crimes are the same in North Carolina, penalties for statutory rape are more severe.
Degrees of statutory offenses
In general, statutory rape occurs when someone between the ages of 12 and 15 has sexual intercourse with a person who is at least six years older. For example, this crime could include a person who is 12 and a person who is 17, or a person who is 15 and an adult of 21.
North Carolina recognizes two other categories of statutory rape. Statutory rape of a child occurs when the victim is younger than 13 and the perpetrator is older than 18. First-degree statutory rape describes sexual intercourse between a victim younger than 13 and an individual who is older than 12 and four years older than the victim (ages 11 and 15, for example).
Relationship-based statutory offenses
Some sexual relationships between adults are illegal in North Carolina. A person can receive a statutory sexual offense charge if he or she is a teacher, coach, administrator or other educator who has had sexual contact with a student of any age at the same school. This is also true of an adult who has sexual contact with a person for whom he or she is acting as a guardian or substitute parent.
These charges carry penalties of up to 240 months in prison for a first offense. For this reason, individuals charged with this crime must protect their legal rights.