New York Statutory Rape Laws

by ECL Writer
New York Assault Crimes

Consensual sex with a juvenile under the age of 17 is prohibited by New York law. Lawbreakers are guilty of statutory rape. The foundation of statutory rape legislation is the belief that minors are unable to consent voluntarily to sex. Their ineptitude is stipulated in the law; consequently, “statutory” rape. There is no “statutory rape” legislation in New York, unlike many other states. Rather, depending on the sexual act and the age of the individuals, these actions are charged as sex offenses, including rape.

Age Of Consent In New York

In New York, the legal age of consent for sexual interactions is 17, therefore until that age, an individual cannot voluntarily engage in sexual behavior. A sex offense can be brought against someone who engages in sexual behavior with a person under the age of 17. (Additional details about these crimes are provided below.)

Consent Is Not a Defense

Although many perpetrators try to use permission as a defense, it is insufficient in sex crime cases where the victim is under the age of 17.

Mistake of Age Is Not a Defense

Age misunderstanding is a popular defense used in rape cases. Those accused of statutory rape frequently assert that they had no cause to suspect their partner was a minor. They can contend that a reasonable person would have believed the child when they claimed to be of legal age. Even if this were the case, a defendant cannot challenge a conviction based on an age mistake—no matter how reasonable it may be. Age is not a valid excuse in New York.

Marital Exception Abolished

The state’s marital exception to statutory rape prosecutions was completely eliminated by changes made to state law in 2021 that increased the age of consent for marriage to 18 years old.

New York’s Crimes And Penalties For Statutory Rape

Charges for rape, illegal sexual acts, sexual abuse, or sexual misconduct may be brought against someone who engages in statutory rape. The severity of the punishments is determined by the sexual activity that took place, the victim’s age, and other factors as indicated below.

Rape Crimes

Sexual contact (penetration, however little) with another person while being coerced or when the victim is unable of giving consent due to physical helplessness or because they are under a specific age constitutes the crime of rape. The following sanctions are applicable for statutory rape (incapable of consent due to age).

  • First-degree rape: When the victim is (1) under the age of 11 or (2) under the age of 13 and the criminal is 18 or older, first-degree rape charges are brought. Such a crime is a Class B felony, which carries a maximum 25-year jail sentence.
  • Second-degree rape: Sexual contact between individuals who are more than four years apart in age, the defendant is at least 18 years old, and the minor is under the age of 15 constitutes this degree of violation. A 19-year-old and a 14-year-old would serve as an illustration. This crime is a Class D felony, and the maximum sentence for convicted is seven years in jail.
  • Third-degree rape: When a defendant is 21 years of age or older and engages in sexual activity with a person under the age of 17, such as a 21-year-old and a 16-year-old, third-degree rape charges are brought. This crime is a Class E felony, which carries a maximum four-year jail sentence.

Criminal Sexual Act

Instead of sexual intercourse, a criminal sexual act involves oral or anal sexual behavior. When the victim is too old to give permission, the following sanctions are applicable.

  • First-degree criminal sexual act. These charges apply when (1) the victim is younger than 11 or (2) the victim is 11 or 12 years old and the offender is 18 or older. This offense is a Class B felony, and a conviction can land a defendant in prison for up to 25 years.
  • Second-degree criminal sexual act. A defendant is guilty of a second-degree criminal sexual act when they engage in oral or anal sexual conduct with someone who is under 15, and the offender is 18 or older. A guilty defendant faces a class D felony conviction and up to seven years in prison.
  • Third-degree criminal sexual act. Third-degree criminal sexual act charges apply when the defendant is 21 or older and engages in oral or anal sexual conduct with someone younger than 17 years old. This offense constitutes a Class E felony and carries up to four years in prison.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual contact or touching that is appealing or sexually satisfying, even over clothing, is considered to be sexual abuse. The offense levels for sexual abuse based on age are as follows.

  • First-degree sexual abuse. A person commits first-degree sexual abuse when the (1) victim is younger than 11 or (2) the victim is 11 or 12 years old and the offender is 21 or older. Such an offense is a Class D felony, which is punishable by up to seven years in prison.
  • Second-degree sexual abuse. A defendant is guilty of second-degree sexual abuse when the victim is younger than 14. Second-degree sexual abuse constitutes a Class A misdemeanor and subjects a guilty defendant to up to 364 days in jail.
  • Third-degree sexual abuse. Third-degree sexual abuse includes sexual contact between a minor who is 15 or 16 years old and a defendant who is less than five years older than the victim (for instance, a 16-year-old and 19-year-old). This offense is a Class B misdemeanor, which can result in up to three months in jail.

Sexual Misconduct

Sexual misconduct charges typically apply when close-in-age individuals engage in consensual sexual activity (i.e., oral or anal sex) with a person under the age of 17 and the parties are not below the age restrictions for rape or illegal sexual acts. For instance, a prosecutor might allege sexual misbehavior against the people listed below:

  • a victim is 15, 16, or 17 years old and the defendant is younger than 21 (for example, a 16- and 18-year-old), or
  • a victim is 11 to 15 years of age and the defendant (a minor) is less than four years older (for example, a 14- and 16-year-old).

Sexual misconduct constitutes a class A misdemeanor, which carries penalties of up to 364 days in jail.

“Romeo And Juliet” Laws: Teenagers Close-In-Age

Romeo and Juliet” laws, so named after Shakespeare’s young lovers, are designed to shield teens who have consensual intercourse with peers their own age from significant criminal charges. There is no Romeo and Juliet exception in New York for consensual sex between children or people of similar ages. Yet, as was said before, state laws consider the parties’ ages while determining punishments. For instance, third-degree sexual abuse is a low-level misdemeanor that happens when a youngster, 15 or 16, and someone who is five years or younger than the minor are involved. The same applies to consenting sex between a defendant who is under 17 and a minor who is 11, 12, 13, or 14.

Although the persons in these close-in-age relationships are exempt from criminal prosecution, they may still face misdemeanor charges, as mentioned above. Nonetheless, sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 11 is always a felony, and depending on the specifics of the case, a conviction might result in a sentence of up to 25 years in jail.

Sex Offender Registration For Statutory Rape

Those who are found guilty of certain sex offenses, such as statutory rape, must register as sex offenders in addition to paying the appropriate fines and serving the necessary jail term, according to the Sex Offender Registration Act. Registration may be required for up to life, depending on the severity of the offense. Further felonies may be brought against you for failing to register. Children who have been found to be youthful offenders or juvenile delinquents are exempt from registration requirements. Nonetheless, a minor found guilty of a sex crime after being tried as an adult must register.

Talk To A Lawyer

Laws may be modified at any time. Get in touch with an accomplished criminal defense lawyer who routinely represents clients in your community if you are accused of statutory rape. Statutory rape charges may be defended in a number of ways. An experienced attorney may assess the strength of the prosecution’s case against you and work with you to establish any potential defenses. A lawyer will be familiar with how courts and prosecutors normally approach cases similar to yours, and can frequently negotiate with the prosecutor for a reduced charge or lighter punishment.

Help For Sexual Assault And Rape Survivors

If you are a victim of sexual assault or rape, find online help and local resources at or 800-656-HOPE (4673).

(N.Y. Penal Law §§ 70.00, -.15; 130.00, -.20, -.25, -.30, -.35, -.40, -.45, -.50, -.55, -.60, -.65; N.Y. Correct. Law §§ 168 to 168-t (2021).)

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