Georgia Statutory Rape Laws

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In Georgia, anyone who engages in sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16 can face charges for statutory rape, even if the other person consents to the act.

For more information on statutory rape, see Statutory Rape Laws.

Under Georgia law, in order to convict a person for statutory rape, the prosecutor need only prove:

  • the defendant and the victim engaged in sexual intercourse (even slight penetration), and
  • the victim was under the legal age of consent (16 years old).

A person can be convicted of statutory rape even if the child initiated, agreed to, and fully understood the nature and consequences of the sex act.

Statutory rape is punished more severely if the defendant is over the age of 21.

Keep in mind that engaging in any sexual activity by force or without the other person’s consent can result in charges for sexual battery or assault, no matter what the age of the other person. For more information on these crimes in Georgia, see Georgia Sexual Battery LawsGeorgia Assault and Battery Laws, and Georgia Aggravated Assault & Battery Laws.

(Ga. Code Ann. § 16-6-3.)

“Romeo and Juliet” Exception

Named after Shakespeare’s young lovers, “Romeo and Juliet” exceptions are intended to prevent serious criminal charges against teenagers who engage in consensual sex with others close to their own age. Statutory rape is punished less severely in Georgia when:

  • the victim is age 14 or 15, and
  • the defendant is age 18 or younger, and no more than four years older than the victim.

(Ga. Code Ann. § 16-6-3.)

Defenses

Belief in the victim’s age. In Georgia, it is not a defense to a charge of statutory rape that the defendant believed the child was over the age of 16, even if the defendant’s belief was reasonable. (Haywood v. State, 642 S.E.2d 203 (Ga. Ct. App. 2007).) For example, even if a 15-year-old girl looked like and said that she was older than 16 years old, that would not provide a defense to statutory rape.

Marriage. It is a defense to a charge of statutory rape that the child and the defendant are married. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-6-3.) This defense is a vestige of the marital rape exemption.

For more information, see Georgia Marital Rape Laws.

Evidence of Statutory Rape

No one can be convicted of statutory rape based solely on the testimony of the victim. There must be some other evidence to corroborate (support) the charge.

(Ga. Code Ann. § 16-6-3.)

Corroborating evidence may be slight and circumstantial and may include prior statements by the victim. It is up to the jury to decide if the victim’s testimony has been corroborated.

For example, if a 15-year-old boy tells two of his friends that he has engaged in sexual intercourse with an adult and those two friends testified at trial, their testimony could be sufficient to convict the defendant of statutory rape.

Rape of a Child Under Ten

In Georgia, engaging in sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of ten is considered forcible rape and punished very severely.

(Ga. Code Ann. § 16-6-1.)

Child Enticement

Engaging in sexually explicit conversations with children or asking children to engage in sex can result in criminal charges for enticement, even if no sexual activity ever occurs.

For more information on child enticement, see Child Enticement Laws in Georgia.

Punishment

Statutory rape is punishable by one to 20 years’ imprisonment. If the defendant is 21 years old or older, then statutory rape is punishable by ten to 20 years in prison.

If the defendant is under the age of 18 and the victim is age 15 or 16, then statutory rape is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

(Ga. Code Ann. § 16-6-3.)

Sex Offender Registration

People in Georgia who are convicted of statutory rape are required to register as sex offenders if they are over the age of 21 when the offense is committed. Registered sex offenders are required to give personal information to local police officers on a regular basis and face many restrictions, including holding certain jobs and even going to certain places in the community.

(Ga. Code Ann. § 42-1-12.)

Obtaining Legal Assistance

A statutory rape conviction can have very serious consequences, including a lengthy prison sentence and sex offender registration. If you are charged with statutory rape, you should contact a Georgia criminal defense attorney. An attorney can tell you how your case is likely to fare in court and help you obtain the best possible outcome under the circumstances.

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