What Is Statutory Rape in Las Vegas?

All sex crimes are serious offenses in Las Vegas. Statutory rape, formally named statutory sexual seduction, is a specifically defined sex crime that can carry substantial penalties, including prison time and a significant fine. Notably, it is a strict liability crime, which means the defendant’s intent is irrelevant, if the requirements of the offense are met. Representation by an experienced criminal defense attorney is essential for anyone charged with statutory rape or any other sex crime in Nevada.

Statutory Sexual Seduction

The offense of statutory sexual seduction is defined in NRS 200.364 as: “ordinary sexual intercourse, anal intercourse or sexual penetration committed by a person 18 years of age or older with a person who is 14 or 15 years of age and who is at least 4 years younger than the perpetrator.”

The term “sexual penetration,” a key element of the offense, is defined in the same section of the law as: “cunnilingus, fellatio, or any intrusion, however slight, of any part of a person’s body or any object manipulated or inserted by a person into the genital or anal openings of the body of another, including sexual intercourse in its ordinary meaning. The term does not include any such conduct for medical purposes.” It is important to note that this broad definition includes not only intercourse, but any type of physical intrusion.

Together, these two definitions establish the requirements of the offense commonly referred to as statutory rape. To prove a charge of statutory sexual seduction, the prosecutor must prove each of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. Sexual penetration, as defined in the statute, occurred.
  2. The defendant is 18 years of age or older.
  3. The other person is 14 or 15 years of age.
  4. The other person is at least four years younger than the defendant.

It is important to note that the offense does not require specific intent on the part of the alleged perpetrator. The law requires only that the age and physical penetration requirements be met. Statutory rape is a strict liability offense; the defendant’s intention or state of mind is not relevant. Because the other person is by definition under the age of consent, it is also irrelevant whether they allegedly consented.

The statutory rape law effectively establishes the age of 16 years as the age at which a minor can legally consent to sex. However, the law includes what is known as a “Romeo and Juliet” provision, which allows a minor who is at least 14 years old to have consensual sexual activity with a person whose age is within four years of the minor’s age, even if penetration occurs. This provision is an exception to the established legal age of 16 years as the age of consent for sexual activity in Nevada.

Penalties for Statutory Rape

The age of the defendant determines the category of a statutory sexual seduction charge, and therefore the penalties. The offense can be a gross demeanor or a category B or D felony, as follows:

  • A defendant aged 21 years or older faces a category B felony charge. The penalties include a prison term of one to 10 years, and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • For a defendant under age 21 with prior sex crime convictions the charge is a category D felony, which carries one to four years of jail time and a fine up to $5,000.
  • For a defendant under the age of 21 years with no prior sex crime convictions, the charge is a gross misdemeanor with potential penalties of up to 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

Anyone convicted of a sex crime in Nevada must comply with the applicable sex offender registration requirements. Failure to register is a felony. A person convicted of statutory rape also often faces consequences beyond the criminal penalties and sex offender registration. The public record can result in difficulty obtaining employment and housing, as well as other adverse effects.

Defending Against a Statutory Rape Charge

Legal representation is imperative for a person facing a statutory rape charge, especially because of the severe penalties and other consequences that follow a conviction.

Defending against a statutory sexual seduction charge is complicated by the fact that a defendant’s lack of awareness of the other person’s age is not relevant to commission of the offense. By the terms of the law and elements of the offense, it is not an effective defense to claim that the alleged victim lied about their age, reasonably appeared to be over the age of 16 years old, or initiated the sex.

Even so, an experienced criminal defense attorney can develop a defense and strategy after thoroughly investigating the case. Depending on the circumstances of the specific situation, viable defenses may include proof of a false allegation, evidence that the alleged victim is over the age of 16 years old, or insufficient evidence of actual penetration as required by the statute. The goal of any defense is to show that the prosecutor cannot prove every element beyond a reasonable doubt.

You should never plead guilty to statutory rape or any other sex crime charge without talking to a knowledgeable lawyer.

Schedule a Free Consultation With a Las Vegas Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer

If you face a statutory sexual seduction charge or another sex crime offense in Las Vegas, Henderson, or elsewhere in Clark County, criminal defense attorney Joseph Gersten is here to help. He applies his investigative background, trial experience, and in-depth criminal law experience and knowledge to aggressively defend against a criminal charge.

At The Gersten Law Firm, there is no charge for your initial consultation and case evaluation. Call 702.857.8777 or complete our online form to schedule an appointment.