As spotlights start to shine on sexual assault cases across the country, more questions come up about what could happen if you are accused. Sex crimes are very serious and can have a major impact on the rest of your life, including where you are allowed to live and work.
The penalties for sexual assault in North Carolina depend on a number of factors, including the sex acts involved. A major factor in sex charges and penalties is the age of the victim. Once a victim reaches the age of 18, most of the penalties will be standard for sexual assault crimes. Crimes against minors and children, however, are typically penalized more harshly.
Let’s take a deeper look into how sexual assault laws are handled in North Carolina when a child is involved. If you have been accused of sexual assault against a minor, it is important to know what penalties you face and what North Carolina laws could put you behind bars.
North Carolina’s Law on Statutory Rape of a Child by an Adult
North Carolina law defines statutory rape of a child as the act of an adult (someone over the age of 18) engaging in vaginal intercourse with a child under the age of 13 years old. This is a B1 felony in North Carolina.
The required penalties for B1 felonies start at 144 months in prison, but North Carolina law specifically sets the lower limit for this crime to be 300 months behind bars. Moreover, once released, the offender will be subjected to a lifetime of surveillance as dictated by North Carolina’s sex offender registry.
If you are convicted of statutory rape of a child by an adult, and the crime is found to be especially brutal or violent, you could face up to life behind bars.
First-Degree Forcible Sexual Offense by an Adult
The same general rules apply even if the sexual acts involved did not include vaginal intercourse. Any sexual act committed by an adult against a person under the age of 13 is a Class B1 felony.
It is also a B1 felony if the defendant is over 12 years of age and over four years older than a victim who is under 13.
Statutory Rape of a Person Who is 15 Years of Age or Younger
Just because a child is 14 or 15 doesn’t mean they are able to consent to sex with an adult. If an adult defendant engages in vaginal intercourse with someone who is 15 or younger, they may still be charged with a B1 felony.
Charges are less severe (a Class C felony) if the defendant is over the age of 12 and between 4-6 years older than the victim.
There is an exception to this rule. If the two people engaging in vaginal intercourse are married, then the laws will not apply, and the defendant can avoid a criminal conviction.
North Carolina Law: First-Degree Statutory Rape
Rape and forcible sexual offenses are not just committed by adults.
If the defendant is over the age of 12 years old, and over four years older than the victim, vaginal intercourse is charged as first-degree statutory rape. This is also considered a B1 felony, with a minimum penalty of 144 months behind bars.
Additional Charges: Sexual Activity by a Person with Position of Authority
Additional charges may apply if the defendant had a position of authority over the alleged victim. These charges do not have to involve a child, but often do.
Sexual activity by a substitute parent or custodian is a class E felony in North Carolina. Penalties include between 15-63 months in prison. Sexual activity with a student is a Class G felony; penalties include between 8-31 months behind bars.
About North Carolina’s Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse is a very confusing and traumatic experience for children; as a result, 45% of children will not talk about the act for at least five years.
Many crimes have a statutes of limitation that prevents victims from pressing charges against someone after a certain amount of years. This is not the case in North Carolina. Felony sexual abuse crimes do not have a statute of limitations. Even if the crime happened 10 or 20 years ago, the victim could bring a defendant to court for their actions.
North Carolina also allows victims to file civil claims and ask for financial compensation, since sexual abuse can cost a victim money in the form of therapy and emotional stress.
There is a lot at stake for defendants who have been accused of felony sexual assault against a child. If you have been recently charged, reach out to a North Carolina sex crimes lawyer immediately.