Press-Republican

Guest Column

November 19, 2013

The Law and You: Statutory rape

In New York state, it is a criminal sex offense for one person to have sex with another who is younger than 17 years old. 

The statute declares that a person younger than 17 is legally “incapable of consent,” even if that person is actually a willing participant. This is what is commonly called “statutory rape.” 

The law protects young people, sometimes in spite of themselves.

In 2001, New York’s sex offense definitions were revised. 

AGES SIGNIFICANT

There are three degrees of rape and of several other sex offenses. In many of these, the ages of the parties have a significant effect. 

It is always first-degree rape when force is used or when anyone older than 16 has sex with a child younger than 11 years old. It is the same degree of seriousness if a person 18 or older has sex with someone younger than 13. 

First-degree rape carries mandatory state prison time.

What may surprise you is that it is also felony rape for an 18-year-old to have sex with someone who is younger than 15 or for a 21-year-old to have sex with a person who has not yet turned 17. 

That four-year age difference is crucial — a lesser age gap will still be a crime if one party is younger than 17, but it will be a misdemeanor instead of a felony. 

If both are 16 years old, neither is legally capable of consent, yet both can be charged with misdemeanor sexual misconduct.

‘POSITION OF TRUST’

The district attorney’s office and the courts see quite a few of these cases. 

They fall into at least three categories.

In one of those, an older person, often a male but not always, persuades or intimidates a child into sexual activity. An adult may “groom” a child for sexual contact when the child does not really understand what is going on. 

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Guest Column
  • krieg_felicia_mug.jpg Affordable doesn't mean low quality

    Drugstore products often perform just as well as their high-end counterparts, Felicia Krieg writes.

    July 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • paul_grasso.jpg Opportunity to repair infrastructure missed

    A vibrant economy requires roads, bridges, dams and other assets that are in good condition, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • ken_wibecan.jpg Remembering the Sixties

    Each Memorial Day and Labor Day in the early 1960s, about a dozen of us city-dwellers drove to Lake George, writes columnist Ken Wibecan.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Denenberg_Stu1.jpg The right to be forgotten?

    Europe taking first steps toward securing privacy with Google and Facebook, writes columnist Stu Denenberg.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • paul_grasso.jpg Ethical consumerism in vogue

    However, making purchasing choices that can help save the planet aren't always that simple, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    July 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • paul_grasso.jpg U.S. lacking leadership

    Inspiration is hard to come by as society struggles to fulfill the traditional American dream, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    June 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hagar_mug1.jpg Farmers strive for quality, safety, animal welfare

    June Dairy Month is a good time to appreciate all the effort that goes into producing the very best in dairy products, according to columnist Peter Hagar.

    June 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • paul_grasso.jpg Libraries still relevant

    In the digital age, it takes innovation and creativity to assure libraries stay a vital part of the community, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    June 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gast_Richard.jpg Trees at risk from pests

    The Emerald Ash Borer is a major threat to ash trees locally and across North America, according to columnist Richard Gast.

    June 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • paul_grasso.jpg Scandal an affront to America's veterans

    Those who sacrifice for their country deserve only the best treatment when they come home, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    May 25, 2014 1 Photo