If you live around Smithfield, you may have read the story about the church youth coordinator who was arrested for raping a minor. Michael Jansco, 24, met the minor (a 15-year-old) while on a youth pilgrimage. The two were caught in a car parked outside of River Dell Elementary around 2:30 A.M. on a Sunday morning. At the time, Jansco told police that he was 18, but a background check revealed his actual age.
Due to the incident, Jansco has been arrested for statutory rape of a child. He is being held at Johnson County Jail on a $50,000 bond, and he has been removed from his position at his church.
The story is still developing. Reports don’t detail the minor’s relationship with Jansco, or whether the minor gave verbal consent to the youth coordinator. Legally, though, the minor’s verbal consent in this situation doesn’t matter because they are younger than the age of consent.
Understanding “Age of Consent” in North Carolina
When two people have consensual sex, there is nothing illegal about it as long as both of them are 18 or older. It doesn’t matter if one half of the pairing is 10, 20, or even 30 years older. Things get a bit more complicated, however, when minors engage in sexual acts – especially if those sexual acts involve a minor and an adult.
The State of North Carolina recognizes that romantic and sexual relationships can be complicated and some people mature earlier than others, so it is not as simple as just setting the age of 18 as the cut-off point. What about high school relationships where a senior is 18 and they are dating a 17-year-old – is that statutory rape? Should it be?
Because of these types of complications, our state created an “age of consent.” The age of consent means two things:
- That minors who are at least as old as the age of consent can potentially give legal sexual consent to an adult.
- That it is impossible for minors under the age of consent to legally give sexual consent.
So the situation above where the 24-year-old youth leader had sex with a 15-year-old? That’s a non-starter. Because the minor is younger than the age of consent. If, however, the minor had been 16 or older, the fact that he or she gave consent could at least be argued as a valid defense strategy.
Another complicating factor? If the child is younger than 13, the charges are more severe.
The following are a list of common charges related to statutory rape based on the age of the victim:
First Degree Rape/First Degree Sexual Offense – Class B1 felony. If sexual intercourse or a sexual act occurs between a victim under the age of 13 and a defendant over the age of 12. The defendant must also be four years older than the victim.
Statutory Rape – Class B1 felony. If sexual intercourse/sexual acts occur between a victim that is 13, 14, or 15 years old and a defendant who is at least six years older.
Statutory Rape – Class C felony. If sexual intercourse/sexual acts occur between a victim that is 13, 14, or 15 years old and a defendant that is at least four, but no more than six years older.
Taking Indecent Liberties With Children — Class F felony. If sexual behavior, for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire, occurs between a minor victim and a defendant under the age of 16, but who is at least five years older than the victim.
Indecent Liberties Between Children – Class 1 misdemeanor. If sexual behavior, for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire, occurs between a minor victim and a defendant who is younger than 16, but who is at least three years older than the victim.
North Carolina and the “Romeo and Juliet” Exception
We all know a couple that has been together through their middle or high school years. If someone turns 18 a few months before their high school sweetheart, technically they are considered an adult, while their partner is still a minor. Do these couples have to break up or wait until the other partner turns 18?
No. Why? Because North Carolina has a “Romeo and Juliet” exception to statutory rape laws.
Essentially, it says that if two people have consensual sex and they are less than four years apart – even if one is a minor – they will not be arrested for statutory rape. So if an 18-year old is caught having sex with a 16-year old, the 18-year old will not be arrested.
Exceptions are also made in North Carolina for married couples, but keep in mind that these exceptions only cover consensual sex.
What to Do If You Are Charged With Statutory Rape or Related Sex Crimes
A few short months can be the difference between consensual sex and rape. A few short months can be the difference between facing no penalties and facing a lifetime of penalties.
If you are charged, understand the penalties. Class B1 felonies, for example, are some of the most serious charges in North Carolina.
Penalties for felony convictions will be determined based on the defendant’s past criminal history, but will most likely lead to many years behind bars. In addition, sex offenders will have to register on North Carolina’s very strict sex offender registry.
If you have been charged with a sex crime, reach out to a North Carolina criminal lawyer immediately.
About the Author:
Attorney Mike Schlosser represents victims of personal injury, those charged with a crime, as well as those facing traffic charges. A former Guilford County, North Carolina District Attorney, Schlosser has been in private practice at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett since 1983 and has been a member of the North Carolina State Bar since 1973.