How to Get Out of Statutory Rape Charges
Statutory rape or engaging in sexual activity with a minor under the age of consent, even if consensual, can result in serious legal consequences in New Mexico. Facing these allegations and possible long-term consequences for your personal and professional life can be disheartening and terrifying. Fortunately, legal defenses are available with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
What Is Statutory Rape in New Mexico?
- Criminal sexual contact with a minor occurs when a person of any age sexually touches a minor under 13.
- Criminal sexual penetration in the first degree occurs when a person of any age engages in oral, anal, or genital sex or penetration (even slightly, with an object or body part) with a minor under 13.
- Criminal sexual penetration in the fourth degree occurs when an adult who is at least four years older has sex or penetration with that minor between the ages of 13 and 16.
The minor’s consent or initiation is irrelevant. This law applies to any adult, regardless of their role or relationship to the minor.
How to Get Out of Statutory Rape Charges: Possible Defenses
There are four defenses available to statutory rape in New Mexico.
- The accuser’s age. If, at the time of the sexual activity, the accuser was 17 years old or older, it may be considered a defense.
- Legal marriage. If you and the accuser were legally married during the time of the sexual activity, this can serve as a defense.
- Under the age of 18. If you were under the age of 18 when the sexual activity occurred, it may be a valid defense.
- Close age in a relationship. If you and the accuser are only four years apart in age or less—this can be considered a defense. This is also known as the Romeo and Juliet Law.
It is important to note that the applicability of these defenses can vary based on the specific details of your case. Consulting with a skilled criminal defense attorney is essential. They can provide personalized guidance, considering the unique circumstances of your situation.
What Is the Statutory Rape Sentence in New Mexico?
The legal consequences for statutory rape in New Mexico depend on the age difference between the defendant and the accuser, as well as the nature of the sexual act. The following are possible penalties based on the charge.
- First-degree criminal sexual penetration. This is classified as a first-degree felony and is punishable by a maximum of 18 years in prison, a fine of $15,000, or both.
- Fourth-degree criminal sexual penetration. Classified as a fourth-degree felony, this offense is punishable by a maximum of 18 months in prison, a fine of $5,000, or both.
- Second-degree criminal sexual contact. This offense carries a penalty of at least 3 but up to 15 years in prison, a fine of up to $12,500, or both.
- Third-degree criminal sexual contact. This is punishable by up to 6 years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
In addition to these specified penalties, if you are convicted of statutory rape in New Mexico, you must register as a sex offender. This entails providing personal information to law enforcement and notifying them of any changes in address, employment, or education. Additionally, there are limitations that you must follow regarding where you can live, work, or travel.
What Is the Age of Consent in New Mexico?
The minimum age for consenting to sexual activity is 17 years old. This means that anyone who is 17 or older is considered legally competent to consent to sexual activity with another individual—unless there are some specific exceptions.
However, the age of consent is raised to 18 if the other person involved is a school employee, a school health service provider, or a school volunteer who is at least 18 years old and is at least four years older than the minor. This is to prevent abuses of power and to protect minors’ best interests.
The age of consent applies to all individuals regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.
What Is the Romeo and Juliet Law?
New Mexico has a Romeo and Juliet law that protects teenagers who engage in consensual sexual activity with each other from being prosecuted for statutory rape. This law applies to teenagers between 13 and 17 years old with a slight age difference between their partners, usually less than four years. The Romeo and Juliet law only covers voluntary sex between two minors, not sex involving an adult or coercion.
However, no individual under the age of 13 can legally consent to sex in New Mexico, regardless of the age of their partner.
It is essential to understand the age of consent, the Romeo and Juliet law, and the legal implications of having sex as a teenager in New Mexico. If you are facing statutory rape charges or accusations, you should know your rights and seek legal counsel from a competent criminal defense attorney.
Statutory Rape vs. Rape: What Is the Difference?
Rape, also known as criminal sexual penetration, is the intentional act of forcing another person to have unlawful sex or causing the penetration of another person’s genital or anal opening.
Statutory rape is not a legal term in New Mexico, but it refers to sexual offenses involving a minor below the age of consent, which, as stated, is 17 years old in New Mexico. Statutory rape laws are based on the premise that minors are incapable of giving informed consent to sexual activities.
Are You Facing Accusations or Charges of Statutory Rape? New Mexico Criminal Law Offices Can Help.
Since 1997, we have proudly served the people of New Mexico, fiercely protecting the rights of individuals facing various serious criminal charges, including sex crimes. Our experienced and passionate team has a successful track record of employing bold legal approaches and aggressive representation. We know the ins and outs of New Mexico’s criminal laws and are familiar with the local court system.
Contact us today for a free consultation and take the first step towards protecting your rights and future.