What You Must Know About Tennessee Sex Crime Laws Before Talking to Police


What You Must Know About Tennessee Sex Crime Laws Before Talking to Police

If you or someone you know has been accused of a sex crime in Tennessee, it’s important to understand the laws and potential penalties involved before talking to the police. This article will provide an overview of Tennessee’s laws on sexual battery, rape, statutory rape, and solicitation of a minor. We’ll also discuss what to do if questioned by police and potential defenses.

Sexual Battery Laws

In Tennessee, sexual battery involves unlawful sexual contact with another person’s intimate parts. This can include touching someone’s genitals, breasts, or buttocks, or making them touch yours. Sexual battery laws apply even if the touching occurs over clothing.

Unlawful sexual contact is considered sexual battery if it’s accomplished by force, coercion, or fraud, or if the other person doesn’t consent. Lack of consent can happen if someone is mentally incapacitated, physically helpless, or forced.

Sexual battery is a Class E felony, punishable by 1-6 years in prison and fines up to $5,000. But it becomes aggravated sexual battery, a more serious Class B felony (8-30 years), if:

  • The victim is under 13 years old
  • The defendant causes bodily injury
  • The defendant is aided or abetted by others
  • The defendant uses a weapon

Anyone convicted of sexual battery must register as a sex offender, which can last 15 years to life depending on the details of the offense.

Rape Laws

In Tennessee, rape involves unlawful sexual penetration with a victim through use of force, coercion, or fraud. It also applies if the victim is mentally incapacitated or physically helpless and unable to consent.

Rape is a Class B felony, punishable by 8-30 years in prison and fines up to $25,000. It becomes the more serious offense of aggravated rape, a Class A felony (15-60 years), if:

  • The victim suffers serious bodily injury
  • The defendant uses a weapon
  • The victim is under 13 years old

When the victim is under 13, it’s considered child rape. If they are under 8, it’s aggravated child rape – a mandatory life sentence. Defendants convicted of any type of rape must register as sex offenders.

Statutory Rape

In Tennessee, the age of consent is 18. This means anyone under 18 is legally incapable of consenting to sexual activity. An adult who engages in sexual penetration with a minor can be charged with statutory rape, even if the minor consented.

Statutory rape laws apply when:

  • The minor is between 13-18 years old
  • The defendant is at least 4 years older than the minor

Penalties depend on the ages of the victim and defendant. Statutory rape is a Class E felony if the minor is 15-18. It’s a Class D felony if they are 13-14, punishable by 2-12 years in prison.

Solicitation of a Minor

It’s also a crime in Tennessee for an adult to solicit a minor for sexual purposes. This includes communicating with a minor to promote or facilitate unlawful sexual conduct. Solicitation can occur through any means, including online, phone calls, text messages, etc.

Solicitation of a minor is a Class E felony. But if it involves promoting prostitution or aggravated rape, it’s a Class C felony (3-15 years). Using a computer for solicitation increases penalties.

What to Do If Questioned by Police

If questioned by police about an alleged sex crime, use your right to remain silent! Don’t say anything or try to explain yourself until you have a criminal defense lawyer present. Anything you say can be used against you, even if you think you’re being helpful.

Politely state you won’t answer questions without an attorney. Don’t resist arrest, run away, or physically resist officers. Just invoke your right to silence.

Potential Defenses

Common defenses in Tennessee sex crime cases include:

  • False accusations – The alleged victim is lying or mistaken
  • Consent – The sexual contact was consensual
  • Mistake of age – You reasonably believed the minor was older
  • Intoxication – You were too impaired to form criminal intent
  • Mental illness – You have a condition that impacted your actions

An experienced sex crimes lawyer can evaluate defenses and negotiate with prosecutors for reduced charges or dismissal if the evidence is weak.


Tennessee takes sex crimes very seriously, even for first-time offenders. Never talk to police without an attorney. And don’t post about your case on social media – that can easily be used against you.

If you or a loved one is under investigation or charged with a sex crime, consult with a criminal defense lawyer immediately. An attorney can protect your rights, analyze the prosecutor’s case, and start building a strong defense.