Mississippi Crime of the Week – Statutory Rape

Statutory rape is sexual intercourse with a person who is not of age.  Statutory rape laws exist because children are not mature enough to understand the consequences of their actions.  They also ostensibly protect young children from being exploited by adults.  The child’s consent to the sex DOESN’T MATTER.  The fact that you thought she was old enough DOESN’T MATTER.  The fact that she was acting like she was 25, and she has been with half the county DOESN’T MATTER.  This makes statutory rape a “strict liability” crime.  All the prosecutor has to do is prove your age, the child’s age, and the fact that intercourse occurred and that’s it.  

In Mississippi, statutory rape works like this, and I’m quoting the statute: 

Any person seventeen (17) years of age or older has sexual intercourse with a child who:

  1. Is at least fourteen (14) but under sixteen (16) years of age;
  2. Is thirty-six (36) or more months younger than the person; and
  3. Is not the person’s spouse; or

A person of any age has sexual intercourse with a child who:

  1. Is under the age of fourteen (14) years;
  2. Is twenty-four (24) or more months younger than the person; and
  3. Is not the person’s spouse.

Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-65.  Incidentally, Mississippi law prohibits marriage by a female under the age of 15 or a male under the age of 17, without court approval and parental consent.  As you can see, calculating the age difference is not simple, so my general advice to you is this:  If you find yourself trying to do the math in your head at the middle school football game, just leave it alone.  Because the consequences are severe.

Penalties for statutory rape:

  1. If you are 18-21 years old, and you are convicted under the first section of the statute (child 14-16, 36 months younger, not your spouse), then the penalty is imprisonment for not more than five (5) years in the State Penitentiary or a fine of not more than Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), or both;
  2. If you are 21 or older and convicted under the first section, the penalty is imprisonment of not more than thirty (30) years in the State Penitentiary or a fine of not more than Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00), or both, for the first offense, and not more than forty (40) years in the State Penitentiary for each subsequent offense;
  3. If you are 18 or older and convicted under the second section (under 14, 24 months younger, not your spouse), then the penalty could be imprisonment for life in the State Penitentiary or such lesser term of imprisonment as the court may determine, but not less than twenty (20) years;
  4. If you are 13-18 years old and convicted under either section, the court is free to sentence you to anything it deems appropriate to the situation.  

I have also discussed the Collateral Consequences of a Criminal Conviction on this blog, and yes, a conviction for statutory rape in Mississippi requires registration as a sex offender under Mississippi law.

During my time trying courts-martial in the Marine Corps, the military changed the Uniform Code of Military Justice to implement a “reasonable mistake of fact” defense to statutory rape.  The fact that an accused reasonably believed that the person was old enough is a defense to statutory rape in the military.  The State of Mississippi continues to reject this defense. 

Despite statutory rape being a strict liability crime in Mississippi, these cases are defensible, and winnable.  The state must be held to its burden of proving all of the elements, including the act itself, beyond a reasonable doubt.  A good lawyer will analyze the evidence and then help you make the best decision on your case.  I have handled many statutory rape cases through the years, and will be glad to discuss it with you.  Give me a call at 601-991-1099, or shoot me an email to clarence@guthriefirm.com.  We are here to help.