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Statutory rape and what it means

Statutory rape is arguably one of the most misunderstood charges in the sex crimes category, but it's important for those charged to understand exactly what the laws say and the possible penalties.

According to Missouri law, statutory rape charges can come into play if someone engages in sexual intercourse with another party who is under 14. Depending on the circumstances, the defendant may be charged with first-degree statutory rape, which is a felony charge. The penalties for a conviction of this charge range from 5 years to life in prison, depending on how many people were involved, whether there were any weapons used and if the other party was younger than 12.

The current Missouri laws concerning statutory rape are in effect until Dec. 31, 2016. After that date, the laws will be amended to reflect S.B. 491. The primary changes to the law include second-degree statutory rape being classified as a Class D felony. Second-degree statutory rape means that the defendant is 21 or older and engages in sexual activity with someone who is under the age of 17.

A conviction for statutory rape on your criminal record can have consequences for the rest of your life. If you are required to register as a sex offender, you may not be able to get a job in certain industries or places. You may also be restricted on where you can live if you aren't allowed within a certain distance of parks or schools. It's normal to have many questions about the charges, court process and possible penalties, and a criminal law attorney can help you get answers and better understand what's to come.

Source: Missouri General Assembly, "Missouri Revised Statutes," accessed April. 02, 2015

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