Statutory rape in Mississippi is a strict liability crime. Intent (the defendant’s state of mind) is not an element of the crime and does not need to be proved in order to convict. All the state has to prove is the defendant’s age, the victim’s age, and that sexual intercourse took place. That you thought the victim was of age does not matter.
Age is extremely important in a statutory rape charge. Mississippi law states that statutory rape occurs when a person 17 or older has sex with a child who is at least 14 but under 16 years of age, is 36 months younger than the person, and is not the person’s spouse. Alternatively, it can be when any person has sex with a child who is under the age of 14, is 24 or more months younger than the person, and is not the person’s spouse. Calculating the age difference is not easy with this law, as there are many variables.
The punishment for statutory rape in Mississippi is going to vary as well. For people between 18 and 20 convicted under the first section, they face up to five years in the penetentiary and/or a $5,000 fine. For someone 21 or older convicted under the first section, up to 30 years and/or a $10,000 fine for a first offense. Subsequent offenses can bring up to 40 years. If someone is 18 or older and convicted under the second section, the sentence could be up to life in prison or any such lesser sentence that the judge decides, but no less than 20 years. For juveniles convicted of statutory rape (between 13 and 17 years old), the sentence is going to be up to the judge. The law does not mandate any minimum or maximum terms.
Perhaps the most serious consequence of a Mississippi statutory rape charge is having to register on the state sex offender list. Statutory rape requires lifetime registration, with no possibility of an early release. This is an extremely harsh penalty for a strict liability crime, one in which the victim likely did not suffer any injury. Having to register on the sex offender list makes it difficult to find a job or even a place to live.
With such dire consequences at stake, you should consult a Mississippi criminal defense lawyer to represent you. How do you defend against this kind of charge? At first glance it may seem like a pretty easy case for the state. All it has to prove is your age, the victim’s age, and that sexual intercourse took place. But it’s that third element that may be the most defensible, and may be the key to you winning your case.
Patrick Stegall is a Southaven statutory rape attorney who handles sex crimes of all types throughout Northern Mississippi. If you have been charged with an offense and would like help, please contact him at (901) 205-9894 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.