The age of consent in North Carolina is 16 years of age, which means that on a person’s 16th birthday, they are considered capable of consenting to sexual intercourse.

If you are in a sexual relationship with someone under that age, you may be at risk of being charged with statutory rape or other crimes. A conviction on these charges can lead to prison time and possibly lifetime identification as a sex offender.

Even if a defendant is also a minor, they can be charged with statutory rape, depending on how many years older they are than the alleged victim.

Crimes related to the age of consent can sometimes seem confusing, especially if the alleged victim consented to the activity or was even a longtime boyfriend or girlfriend of the defendant. Your career, family relationships, and community standing can be damaged with a conviction.

The attorneys of Marcilliat & Mills PLLC, provide focused, strategically informed representation for those accused of statutory rape and related sex offenses. We offer determined and aggressive advocacy for your due process rights. Our goal as a firm is to minimize the consequences of any charge that may be lodged against you.

How Does The Age Of Consent In NC Compare To Other Jurisdictions?

As noted above, the official age of consent for sexual activities in our state is 16. This is lower than the federal age of majority (for purposes of voting laws and other adult privileges), which is 18. However, each state sets its own consent laws. The age of consent across the country generally ranges from 15 to 17.

Most states also recognize that sexual activities between minors shouldn’t be criminalized if the age gap between the defendant and alleged victim is relatively small. This threshold is usually between two and four years of age. Read on for more information about this “Romeo and Juliet” exception in North Carolina.

Age Of Consent Laws And Underage Dating

There are no laws preventing minors from dating each other, i.e., going out for a movie or to dinner together. However, if their intimacy progresses to sexual contact – even sexual acts that stop short of intercourse – the older person can be charged with statutory sexual offenses.

  • Sexual intercourse with a minor 13-15 years of age, when the other party is at least four years older (but less than six years older), is a Class C felony charge.
  • Sexual intercourse with a minor 13-15 years of age, when the other party is at least six years older, is a Class B1 felony charge.
  • Sexual intercourse with a minor under age 13 when the defendant is 18 years of age or older is a B1 felony with a mandatory minimum prison term of 300 months.

As you can see, the exact age difference between the accused and their alleged victim is important. If both parties are minors, and the age difference between them is less than four years, the state’s “Romeo and Juliet” exemption applies, and the older minor will not be prosecuted.

Who Can Report Statutory Rape?

Parents or legal guardians who discover that their minor child is in a sexual relationship with older youth or an adult may report the situation to law enforcement, who can investigate the accused. However, other persons are bound by state reporting requirements to notify the authorities of sexual relationships between minors and their older partners as part of their professional duties, including:

  • Teachers
  • Medical professionals (doctors, nurses, specialist physicians)
  • Clergy
  • Mental health professionals

In short, parental approval is not sufficient to avoid the accusation of statutory rape.

The Stakes Are High In All Statutory Rape Cases

If you or a loved one have been accused of statutory rape, it is essential to hire a defense lawyer experienced in defending clients against this specific sex-crime charge. Because of the age of consent law, you won’t be able to rely on express or implied consent from the victim, since being underage itself is assumed to render the alleged victim incapable of consenting to sexual activity.

North Carolina also has a “strict liability” definition of this charge, so even if the accused had a good-faith belief about the age of the victim, or even if the victim lied about their age, they cannot use “mistake of age” as a defense.

Many other factors play a role in what specific charges could be brought against a person accused of a statutory sex offense. If you are convicted, you could face many years in prison, mandatory registration with North Carolina’s exacting sex offender registry, and the conviction becoming part of your permanent criminal record.

North Carolina’s Statutory Rape Laws

Our state’s approach to statutory rape outlines a number of specific criminal charges, which consider the age of both the accused and the victim, as well as the specific sex acts that occurred between them. Beginning with the least serious of the charges, they include:

  • Indecent liberties between children: Defined as sexual contact between minors aimed at arousing or gratifying sexual desire, when the accused is under the age of 16 but at least three years older than the alleged victim. This charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
  • Taking indecent liberties with a child: This charge involves sexual activity with a minor by a defendant who is at least 16 years of age AND at least five years older than the victim. It’s a Class F felony.
  • Statutory sexual offense with a person who is 15 years old or younger: This offense is defined as oral or anal intercourse or penetration with an object or body part other than the penis. If the accused is at least 12 years old and between four and six years older than the victim, it is a Class C felony. If the accused is 12 years old or older and more than six years older than the victim, it is a Class B1 felony.
  • First-degree statutory sexual offense: This offense involves oral or anal intercourse, or penetration an object or body part besides the penis, between a victim under the age of 13 and a defendant who is aged 12 or older and at least four years older than the victim. It is a Class B1 felony.
  • Statutory sexual offense with a child by an adult: This offense is defined as oral or anal intercourse, or penetration with an object or body part other than the penis, between a minor age 12 or younger and a defendant at least 18 years old. It’s a Class B1 felony.
  • Statutory rape of a person 15 years old or younger: This charge involves vaginal sexual intercourse with a minor below the age of consent. If the accused is age 12 or older and at least six years older than the victim, it is a Class B1 felony. If the defendant is age 12 or older and at least four but less than six years older than the victim, it is a Class C felony.
  • First-degree statutory rape: Defined as vaginal intercourse between a child aged 12 or younger, and a defendant who is 12 years of age or old and at least four years older than the victim. It is a Class B1 felony.
  • Statutory rape of a child by an adult: This charge is defined as vaginal intercourse between a child under the age of 13 and an adult 18 years old or older. It is a Class B1 felony.

In addition to these laws, it is also a crime in North Carolina for a person to engage in any type of sexual activity with a student of any age if they are a school administrator, a teacher, a student teacher, a coach, a school safety officer or another school employee. If the age difference between defendant and victim is less than four years, it is a Class I felony; if the difference is more than four years, it is a class G felony.

In all cases, consensual sexual activity isn’t a crime if the parties were legally married.

What Are The Legal Defenses To Statutory Rape?

If you have been accused of statutory rape, your defense attorney can attempt to demonstrate that you did not have sexual contact with the victim, or that someone else committed the offenses with which you’ve been charged.

Outside of marriage, however, consent is not a defense for sexual offenses classified as statutory rape. Neither is making a mistake about the age of the alleged victim, even if they misrepresented their age to you.

The Steep Consequences Of A Statutory Rape Conviction

Law enforcement and the justice system take reports of sexual contact with minors seriously, because of the vulnerability of those below the age of consent, particularly children under age 13. Statutory rape charges are felonies in North Carolina. A conviction can mean:

  • Prison time, which, due to enhanced sentencing guidelines for felony sex crimes, can mean years or even decades behind bars
  • Five years of post-release supervision after prison
  • Lifetime GPS monitoring
  • Mandatory registration as a sex offender with the state
  • The stigma of having a sex crime on your permanent criminal record
  • Loss of professional licenses or even being barred permanently from certain professions (such as teaching)

Hiring a skilled defense team, such as the attorneys at Marcilliat & Mills PLLC, can make the difference between a life-altering conviction and a result that preserves your career, community standing and permanent record.

Why Contact Our Defense Attorneys For Statutory Rape Accusations?

Accusations of statutory rape, even if the victim gave their consent to the activity, can be devastating if they result in a sexual offense conviction. Nearly all charges related to statutory rape are considered a B1 felony by North Carolina’s penal code and can lead to years in prison – in some cases, even decades in prison. After serving long prison sentences, those convicted of statutory rape may be required to register as sex offenders, often for the rest of their lives.

It is important to hire a defense attorney for statutory rape cases as soon as you are aware you might be investigated. Do not wait until your arrest to seek a sex crimes attorney. In many cases, a qualified statutory rape lawyer can review the case that the state is developing against you and intervene on your behalf, which may lead to no charges being filed or a favorable plea deal. Additionally, having an attorney at your side during any questioning by law enforcement will allow you to answer (or decline answering) questions in a way that doesn’t give the prosecutor ammunition to use against you in court.

Never discuss your case with law enforcement or prosecutors unless you have an experienced defense attorney by your side. If you answer their questions on your own, you may very well give them ammunition to use against you.

While consent and mistake about the age of the alleged victim are not available to statutory rape defendants as potential defenses, our defense attorneys have other tools at our disposal to derail the state’s case. Depending on the circumstances, those strategies might involve:

  • Requesting to have the charges dismissed for lack of evidence,
  • Using expert testimony to refute the allegations
  • Casting doubt on the forensic or DNA evidence
  • Refuting witness statements and questioning their credibility

In all cases involving charges of sex with children or minors who are under 16 years of age, our lawyers conduct a thorough investigation to uncover the best angle for an effective defense. Our goal is always a dismissal or acquittal, but even if that’s not possible, we can help you negotiate a favorable plea deal that minimizes the consequences and protects your future to the fullest extent possible.

Our Law Offices Focus On Sex Crime Cases

Marcilliat & Mills PLLC, has handled more than 4,000 cases in the past decade, many of them for clients facing sexual misconduct charges. We understand the unique challenges of successfully defending against statutory rape charges, including variables such as:

  • Whether sexual contact or sexual intercourse is being alleged by the victim
  • The age of the victim and the accused
  • The age difference between the victim and the defendant
  • In cases where both parties are minors, how many years older is the defendant than the victim
  • The past criminal record of the defendant, especially convictions for crimes of a sexual nature

Our attorneys and staff share a commitment to ensuring that your case gets the attention it deserves.

Our firm has secured positive results for statutory rape clients, including dismissals of charges, reduction of charges and acquittals at trial. We understands the tactics and strategies the state will use to secure a guilty verdict or plea, and all our lawyers know how to construct strong defenses for serious crimes.

Fight For Your Future Call 919-838-6643 Today

Statutory rape charges can put your entire future at risk. Hire a legal team that deploys the most effective strategies for sex offense cases and will not rest until we have resolved your case. To speak with a lawyer in one of our six offices located across North Carolina, call us toll-free at 919-838-6643 or email our offices to set up an appointment. Your initial consultation is free.