Whenever an adult over the age of 18 is sexually involved with someone under the age of consent, they could face charges of statutory rape. Rape and date rape generally refer to forcing someone to engage in sexual activity without their consent. In statutory rape cases, force is generally not a requirement.
In Virginia, there are two main statutes relating to statutory rape. According to Virginia Code, 18.2-63, if a person engages in sexual activity with a minor, ages 13 or 14, they could be guilty of a Class 4 felony. According to Virginia Code, 18.2-371, an adult over 18 engaging in sexual activity with a 15- to 17-year-old could face a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable with up to a year in jail and $2,500 fine.
However, there are laws to protect young people engaging in sexual activity with other young people in their age group. In Virginia, a close in age exemption allows teens between the ages of 15 and 17 to engage in sexual activity with people in the same age range. There is also a similar close in age exemption for minors between the ages of 13 and 15. But, the conduct may still be illegal, but the conduct will be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.
In many cases, criminal defense attorneys will defend against rape charges by proving that the alleged victim consented to the sexual activity that occurred. But, a person under the age of consent is unable to legally consent. Therefore, consent is generally not a defense in statutory rape cases. Mistake of age, even if reasonable, is also not a common defense. There are other possible defenses, though. There is a marital exemption, which legalizes sexual activity between married minors over the age of 15 and the minor’s spouse.