Understanding statutory rape charges in the state of Tennessee

Romantic relationships involving adults and minors over 13-years-old may lead to situations that are considered statutory rape and may be punished harshly.

Love sometimes blooms early for people in Tennessee and elsewhere, and some may choose to act on those feelings and take their relationships to the next level. However, being intimate with a partner may be considered a criminal offense depending on the couple's ages. In order to help protect themselves, it is important for people to understand statutory rape charges, as well as the potential penalties.

What is statutory rape?

Tennessee state law defines statutory rape as sexual penetration with a child who is between the ages of 13 and 18-years-old by someone who is at least four years older. This is the case even if both people are willing participants in the interaction as the legal age for consent in the state is 18-years-old. Therefore, those under 18 cannot agree to have sexual intercourse in the eyes of the law.

What is statutory rape by an authority figure?

Most people are aware that sexual relationships between adults in positions of authority and minors are considered inappropriate, even if they are close in age. Under Tennessee law, sexual penetration involving adults who charged with the trust, parental or custodial authority, disciplinary power or supervision of their minor-aged partners is classified as statutory rape by an authority figure.

Is there a Romeo and Juliet provision?

Young people between the ages of 13 and 18-years-old often attend school together, which can spark relationships and lead to situations that may be qualified statutory rape. Some state laws provide a provision for such situations, lessening the potential charges and penalties, but Tennessee is not one of those states. Sexual penetration involving someone who is between 15 and 18-years old and a partner who is between four and five years older is considered mitigated statutory rape, and carries the same consequences as statutory rape.

What are the penalties for statutory rape?

Prosecuted and punished harshly, the penalties people may face if convicted of statutory rape may vary based on several factors. Mitigated and statutory rape are classified as Class E felonies and, as such, carry the potential for between one and six years in prison. Aggravated statutory rape, involving someone who is more than 10 years older than his or her minor-aged partner, is a Class D felony. Consequently, those convicted of this offense may be sentenced to between two and 12 years in prison. A Class C felony, statutory rape by an authority figure is considered the most serious of these offenses, and may result in a sentence of three to 15 years in prison.

Seeking legal guidance

Something that starts sweet and innocent can easily lead to serious legal issues, with potentially lasting consequences, for people in Tennessee who are in relationships with minors. Being charged with statutory rape may put their freedom, as well as their futures, at risk. Therefore, those who are facing sex offense charges such as this may find it helpful to obtain legal counsel. An attorney may explain their rights and options, and help them develop a solid defense against the charges they are facing.