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.
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 Laws, Georgia Assault and Battery Laws, and Georgia Aggravated Assault & Battery Laws.
Under Georgia law, in order to convict a person for statutory rape, the prosecutor need only prove:
(Ga. Code Ann. § 16-6-3 (2018).)
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.
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 (2018).)
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 (2018).)
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.
Statutory rape is typically a felony and punishable by one to 20 years’ imprisonment. Statutory rape is punished more severely if the defendant is over the age of 21. If the defendant is 21 years old or older, then statutory rape is punishable by ten to 20 years in prison. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-6-3 (2018).)
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 (2018).)
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 (2018).)
Defendants charged with statutory rape have the usual defenses available to all criminal defendants, such as “Someone else committed this crime,” or “The alleged conduct did not occur.” But under Georgia law, other defenses can also apply.
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. In Georgia, there is a Romeo and Juliet exemption for consensual sex between a victim who is 14 or 15 years old and someone who is 18 or younger and no more than four years older than the victim. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-6-3 (2018).)
However, this is a limited exception because it serves to reduce the conduct from a felony to a misdemeanor offense. The conduct is still illegal, but someone protected by this exception will face the possibility of smaller fines and reduced jail time.
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.
It is a defense to a charge of statutory rape that the child and the defendant are married. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-6-3 (2018).) This defense is a vestige of the marital rape exemption.
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. Laws can change at any time, and 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.
If you are a victim of sexual assault or rape, contact Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) for online help and local resources.
Updated August 8, 2018