If you live in New Hampshire, you may have recently become aware of your state's statutory rape laws through media coverage of the trial of an 18-year-old convicted of several misdemeanors for having sex with a 15-year-old. Despite not being found not guilty of felony rape, the defendant will be required to register as a sex offender. Could your teen be in danger of being charged with statutory rape for engaging in a consensual relationship with someone below the age of consent? Read on to learn more about New Hampshire's statutory rape laws and what your teen can do to prevent being charged with a crime.
When can a teen be charged with statutory rape in New Hampshire?
Anyone in New Hampshire having sexual contact with someone age 12 or younger will be charged with a crime. If the older party is 4 or more years older than the underage party, he or she will be charged with a felony; if there is a gap of fewer than 4 years, this person will be charged only with a misdemeanor.
In addition, anyone engaging in consensual penetrative sex with someone between the ages of 13 and 16 will be charged with a misdemeanor, even if this person is within 4 years of age of the victim. This can mean that if your teen is 16 or older and dating someone younger than 16, your teen could be charged with misdemeanor rape for having consensual sex with his or her significant other-- even if this other teen is just a few months younger than your child.
How can your teen prevent being charged with statutory rape?
Statutory rape is a strict liability law -- this means that it doesn't matter whether your teen knew the minor was younger than 16 or was fooled into believing he or she was of age. As long as it can be established that sexual contact between your teen and a younger teen occurred, your teen will be found guilty of misdemeanor rape. If your teen is dating someone younger than 15, he or she should avoid any penetrating sexual contact until this person's 16th birthday; and if your teen is a casual dater, he or she should avoid engaging in any sexual contact with someone whose age can't be easily verified.
However, one exception to New Hampshire's statutory rape laws does exist -- if your teen and his or her sexual partner were married at the time they had sex (even if married in another state), this sexual contact will be legal. Because New Hampshire permits teens to marry as young as age 13 or 14 with court permission and parental consent, this is the only legal way for teens this young to have sex. However, there are very few (if any) situations in which this is the best option for your teen or his or her potential spouse.
For more information, contact a criminal defense lawyer in your area.