How a Tennessee Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Reduce Charges for Statutory Rape
How a Tennessee Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help Reduce Charges for Statutory Rape
Being charged with statutory rape in Tennessee can have severe consequences like jail time, fines, and having to register as a sex offender. But a good criminal defense lawyer can help reduce the charges and penalties. This article provides tips on how a Tennessee criminal defense lawyer can help in statutory rape cases.
Understanding Statutory Rape Laws in Tennessee
Statutory rape laws in Tennessee criminalize sexual contact with a minor under a certain age, even if the contact is consensual. The laws are meant to protect minors from sexual exploitation by adults. Here are some key points about statutory rape laws in TN:
- The age of consent in Tennessee is 18 years old. This means any sexual contact with a person under 18 can potentially be considered statutory rape.
- There are different charges based on the ages of the minor and adult. For example, if the minor is under 13, it is charged as rape of a child, while if the minor is 13-18, it is statutory rape.
- There are also aggravated charges if the adult is significantly older than the minor, like over 10 years older.
- Tennessee has a “Romeo and Juliet” law that provides some protection if the minor is 13-18 and the adult is less than 4 years older.
- Penalties range from fines and probation up to many years in prison depending on the charge.
So the specific ages and age gap between the minor and adult are very important in determining the charges and penalties. A defense lawyer will carefully examine this.
Investigating the Case Thoroughly
A skilled criminal defense lawyer will do a thorough investigation of the statutory rape case. This includes:
- Interviewing the client to get their full side of the story
- Collecting evidence like texts, photos, videos, social media posts etc.
- Interviewing any witnesses who may have information
- Visiting and photographing any relevant locations
- Getting school, medical, employment or other records of the client and alleged victim
- Consulting with expert witnesses as needed, like psychologists
Thorough investigation and preparation is key to building the strongest defense in statutory rape cases.
Fighting Questionable Accusations
Many statutory rape charges arise from questionable accusations, like:
- Angry parents who disapprove of their child’s relationship
- False accusations from minors to get revenge on an ex
- Misunderstandings about the minor’s age
- Accusations that are exaggerated or taken out of context
A defense lawyer will critically examine the accusations and aim to create reasonable doubt about what happened. They can argue things were consensual, the adult was unaware of the minor’s age, or the accusations are unreliable or false. This can help get charges dismissed or reduced.
Using the Romeo and Juliet Law
Tennessee’s Romeo and Juliet law is an important protection in certain statutory rape cases. It prevents charges if:
- The minor was 13-18 years old
- The adult is less than 4 years older than the minor
- The sexual contact was consensual
The defense lawyer will determine if the Romeo and Juliet law applies. If so, they can argue the contact was lawful and the charges should be dropped.
Disputing Aggravating Factors
More severe charges apply if there are aggravating factors like:
- The minor was under 13 years old
- The adult was 10+ years older than minor
- The adult was in a position of authority over the minor
The defense lawyer will closely examine if these aggravating factors legitimately apply. For example, if the adult was 18 and the minor was 16, the 10 year age gap doesn’t apply. Disputing aggravating factors can result in reduced charges.
Negotiating Plea Deals
Rather than risk trial, a plea deal may be negotiated with the prosecutor, such as:
- Pleading to a lower charge
- Dropping enhancements like the 10 year age gap
- Agreeing to a lighter sentence recommendation
An experienced lawyer can advocate for the best possible plea deal to minimize penalties.
Presenting Mitigating Factors
- The minor lied about their age
- The adult reasonably believed the minor was older
- The minor was close to the age of consent
- The adult has no prior criminal history
- The contact was consensual and non-coercive
While they may not prevent conviction, presenting mitigating factors can help reduce sentencing.
Avoiding Sex Offender Registration
Conviction of certain charges like aggravated statutory rape require registering as a sex offender in Tennessee. This brings severe restrictions on housing, employment, and more. Defense lawyers will fight hard to help their client avoid having to register through legal arguments, plea negotiations, and emphasizing mitigating factors.
Getting Experienced Legal Representation
Facing statutory rape charges is scary, but an experienced Tennessee criminal defense lawyer can thoroughly investigate the facts, identify defenses, negotiate with prosecutors, and advocate in court to help reduce penalties. Getting experienced legal representation as early as possible gives the best chance at the most favorable outcome.