Here in West Virginia, the minimum age of consent to engage in sexual activities is 16. Anyone younger than that age can’t agree to have sex, and thus, their sexual involvement with someone else may constitute statutory rape.
Statutory rape charges can be confusing since the alleged victim is always a consenting party to the sexual act. Understanding more about the limitations of young people to choose to participate in sexual activities can help you better understand the law and any charges you may face.
There isn’t a close-in-age exemption in West Virginia
Many states have “Romeo and Juliet laws” on the books that allow for the following without fear of prosecution:
- Individuals who are both under the age of consent to have sexual relations
- Two parties who are similarly aged (one above the age of consent and one below it) have sex
Unfortunately, West Virginia doesn’t have such a law in effect.
Two individuals under 16 years of age may face statutory rape charges for having sexual relations. The same may happen to the older partner if they have sex with someone below the age of consent.
What are the penalties for statutory rape in West Virginia?
Prosecutors may levy the following charges against a defendant convicted of statutory rape depending on the specifics of a case, including each party’s age whether they were in a position of trust, whether other crimes were involved and so on:
- First-degree sexual assault: This is a felony offense, punishable by up to $10,000 in fines or a 15-35 year prison sentence (or both).
- Sexual abuse by a person in a position of trust (such as parent, custodian or guardian): This is a felony charge, punishable by up to a $10,000 fine and a 20-year prison term.
- Third-degree sexual assault: Anyone convicted of this felony offense may have to pay as much as $5,000 in fines and serve between 1-5 years in state prison.
- First-degree sexual abuse: The court may impose a $5,000 fine and up to five years in a state correctional facility if a defendant is convicted of this felony offense.
- Third-degree sexual abuse: This is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in county jail and up to $500 in fines.
Sexually-oriented charges on your record are never a good thing, but ones involving minors are far worse. You’ll want to aggressively defend yourself against the charges you face to preserve your good name and freedom.