Understanding the charge of statutory sexual assault in Pennsylvania

Even when consensual, having sex with someone under 16-years-old is considered statutory sexual assault in Pennsylvania and could carry severe penalties.

Generally, the person who someone enters into a relationship with is no one's business but his or her own. However, depending on a couple's ages, getting intimate with a partner may be considered a criminal offense in Pennsylvania. Being convicted of a statutory sexual assault charge can have serious consequences with lasting effects.

Recently, Fox 43 reported that a 19-year-old man was arrested on statutory rape charges in West Hempfield Township. The man, who was previously employed at an early childhood education and care facility, is accused of having sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl. During the course of their relationship, which reportedly lasted for two weeks, the couple had consensual sexual contact. It was not disclosed how authorities became aware of the relationship.

What is statutory sexual assault?

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the legal age of consent is 16-years-old in the state of Pennsylvania. As such, those under that age are not considered mentally capable of making decisions regarding sex. Therefore, they cannot legally agree to have sexual intercourse.

Under Chapter 31, Title 18 of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, the state defines statutory sexual assault, also known as statutory rape, as sexual intercourse with someone who is under the legal age of consent. This is true even when the contact is consensual if the person who is over the age of 16 is at least four years older than the minor. The law provides an exception for married couples. Depending on the circumstances, statutory sexual assault may be a second-degree or first-degree felony offense.

What are the penalties for statutory sexual assault?

Under Pennsylvania state law, a person may be charged with a second-degree felony count of statutory sexual assault if he or she is between four and eight years older than the minor. Additionally, those who are between eight and 11 years older than the minor with whom they are accused of having sexual intercourse may also face a second-degree felony charge for statutory rape. A conviction of this charge may carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years, as well as a fine of up to $25,000.

Statutory sexual assault becomes a first-degree felony offense in cases when the accused is 11 years, or older, than the minor. If convicted of this charge, a person could face a prison sentence of up to 20 years. Additionally, he or she may be fined up to $25,000.

Obtaining legal counsel

For people in Pennsylvania, statutory sexual assault is a very serious charge, which carries potentially severe penalties. As such, those facing this charge may benefit from seeking legal representation. Working with an attorney may help them understand their rights and options, as well as aid in establishing a strong criminal defense.

Keywords: sex crime, charges, penalties, arrest