The age of consent can vary among states, and some states differentiate between consensual sex between minors who are close in age (for example, two teenagers of the same age), as opposed to sex between a minor and a much older adult.Though statutory rape does not require that the prosecutor prove an assault, it is still rape.Defendants charged with statutory rape have the usual defenses available to all criminal defendants, such as “Someone else committed this crime,” or “The alleged conduct did not occur.” But under Virginia law, some other defenses may apply in statutory rape cases.Virginia has a marital exemption for statutory rape that allows consensual sex between a married minor and that minor’s spouse, even though their ages would prohibit it if they were not married.This is because Virginia has a marital exemption to the state’s statutory rape laws.However, if Tony were to rape Jen (force her to have sex against her will), he would have no protection under the law even if the two are married.Laws can change over time, and a lawyer can evaluate the strength of the prosecution’s case against you and help develop any defenses that might apply to your case.
The conduct is still illegal, but someone protected by this exception will face the possibility of smaller fines and reduced jail time.
Of course, rape that does involve force or an assault is illegal in Virginia and prosecuted as forcible rape.
Assaults of a sexual nature may also be charged under the state’s assault and battery laws and child enticement and abuse laws.
(For more information about rape between spouses, see Marital Rape Laws.) Many states have enacted “Romeo and Juliet” exceptions, named for William Shakespeare’s young lovers, to protect young people from criminal charges as a result of consensual sexual activity with other teens.
In Virginia, there is a Romeo and Juliet exemption for consensual sex between minors who are fewer than three years apart in age.
Minors are legally incapable of giving consent to having sex; so for example, if Jen, a 15-year-old willingly has sex with Tony, her 23-year-old boyfriend, Tony can be charged with rape, since Jen is not legally capable of giving consent in the first place.