Understanding Delaware Statutory Rape Laws

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Understanding Delaware Statutory Rape Laws

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Delaware law enforcement and prosecutors are tough on rape crimes. There are several different categories of rape in Delaware, including aggravated rape and statutory rape. Statutory rape is a legal term that describes sexual activities in which one of the participants is under Delaware’s legal age of consent. The penalties for statutory rape in Delaware depend on the victim’s age, but all statutory rape charges carry a penalty that involves prison time. Defendants should take statutory rape charges seriously.

Statutory Rape in Delaware 

In some cases, defendants charged with statutory rape are surprised because the alleged victim consented to the sexual activity. However, in Delaware, it is illegal for an adult who is 18 or older to have sex with a minor who is 15 or younger, even when both consent. Those who have sex with a minor age 15 or younger are guilty of statutory rape.

Minor children are incapable of giving consent to sexual activities, which is why statutory rape is illegal in Delaware. Statutory rape does not require any type of assault or battery, but it is still considered a crime. When a defendant does engage in an assault or battery with a minor, he or she will face criminal charges in addition to statutory rape. In Delaware, defendants are charged with forcible rape when they assault the victim during the rape. Delaware prosecutors charge defendants who have allegedly committed an assault of a sexual nature under child enticement, molestation, or assault and battery laws.

Penalties for Statutory Rape in Delaware

As mentioned above, statutory rape occurs when a legal adult has sex with a minor who is age 15 or younger. Statutory rape also includes sex between an adult age 30 or older and a 16 or 17 year old minor.  Delaware statute breaks down statutory rape into several more categories based on what type of conduct allegedly happened. For example, penetration, sexual intercourse, and sexual contact are all prosecuted and punished differently. Statutory rape penalties vary depending on which type of offense occurred.

Rape in the First Degree

Rape in the first degree includes any type of sexual intercourse, including genital, oral, or anal sex with a victim who is age 12 or younger when the defendant is at least 18 years old. Rape in the first degree is a class A felony and carries a jail sentence of up to 15 years.

Rape in the Second Degree

Rape in the second degree includes sexual contact with a victim under 12 that involves penetration. Again, the defendant must have been 18 or years or older when the alleged crime took place. Rape in the second degree is considered a class B felony that carries a penalty of between 10 and 25 years in prison.

Rape in the Third  Degree

Rape in the third degree involves sexual intercourse when the victim is 13 or younger, and the defendant is 19 or older. This type of rape also includes sexual intercourse between a defendant and a victim who is 15 years or younger when the defendant is 10 years or older than the victim. Rape in the third degree is considered a class B felony with a penalty between two and 25 years in prison.

Rape in the Fourth Degree

Rape in the fourth degree involves sexual intercourse between a defendant who was 30 years or older and a victim who is 15 years old or younger. Rape in the fourth degree is considered a class C felony that is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Unlawful Sexual Contact in the First Degree

Unlawful sexual contact in the first degree involves any type of sexual contact with a victim age 13 or younger. Sexual contact includes sexual touching of any kind, including touching over the victim’s clothes even without any type of penetration. Under Maryland law, unlawful sexual contact in the first degree is considered a Class D Felony punishable by up to eight years in prison.

Unlawful Sexual Contact in the Second Degree

Unlawful sexual contact in the second degree involves sexual contact with a victim age 17 or younger. Unlawful sexual contact in the second degree is considered a class a felony with penalties of up to three years in prison.

Registration as a Sex Offender

In addition to serving jail time, defendants convicted of statutory rape must register as sex offenders. In addition to paying the applicable science and serving prison time, defendants convicted of certain types of sexual crimes, including rape and statutory rape, must register on the Maryland sex offender registry. Depending on the severity of the crime, the defendant could be required to stay on the list for the rest of his or her life. Registering on a sex offender list will severely impact your life. It can make it challenging to be hired in certain positions, find housing, and complete your education.

Defenses to Statutory Rape Charges

Your criminal defense lawyer will help you develop a legal defense against statutory rape charges. Unfortunately, arguing that the alleged victim consented to the sexual activity is not a defense when it comes to statutory rape. There are some exceptions to Delaware statutory rape laws, however. For example, the Romeo and Juliet exception prevents teenagers who engage in consensual sex with other teenagers from facing severe criminal penalties. When consensual sex occurs between a minor between 12 and 15 and a defendant who was no more than four years older than the minor, the older minor cannot be charged with statutory rape.

Contact a Delaware Statutory Rape Lawyer Today

If you are facing a rape charge in Delaware, the most important thing you can do is speak to an experienced criminal defense lawyer. The public defender assigned to your case likely has a large caseload and will not be able to dedicate the amount of time needed for your case. At Schwartz & Schwartz, we offer our clients experienced and aggressive legal representation. Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation.

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