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Statutory rape is prosecuted under Tennessee’s rape and sexual battery laws.

Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000, at least two (and up to 12) years in prison, or both. Code §§ 39-13-506, 40-35-111.) State law requires, in addition to the applicable fines and prison time, that people convicted of certain instances of statutory rape must register as sex offenders.

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 Tennessee law, some other defenses can apply to statutory rape cases.

Rape of a child includes sexual penetration (however slight, with a body part or object), including vagina, oral, or anal sex, with a minor who is younger than 13 years old. Penalties include a fine of up to $50,000, at least 15 (and up to 60) years in prison, or both. Code §§ 39-13-522, 40-35-111 (2017).) Aggravated sexual battery includes sexual contact (sexual touching—even over clothing— for sexual gratification) with a minor who is younger than 13 years old. Penalties include a fine of up to $25,000, at least eight (and up to 30) years in prison, or both. Code §§ 39-13-504, 40-35-111 (2017).) Statutory rape includes sexual penetration, including oral and anal sex, with a child who is at least 13, and a defendant who is at least four years older than the victim; or when the victim is at least 15 and the defendant is more than five (but less than ten) years older. Penalties include a fine of up to $3,000, at least one (and up to six) years in prison, or both.

However, this offense is a Class D felony if the victim is at least 13 and the defendant is ten or more years older.

Though statutory rape does not require that the prosecutor prove an assault, it is still rape.

Of course, rape that does involve force or an assault is illegal in Tennessee and prosecuted as forcible rape.

Those who break the law have committed statutory rape.

Statutory rape laws are premised on the assumption that minors are incapable of giving informed consent to sexual activities.

Named after Shakespeare’s young lovers, “Romeo and Juliet” exceptions are intended to prevent serious criminal charges against teenagers who engage in consensual sex with others close to their own age.

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