Sexual intercourse by an adult with a person below a statutorily designated age.
The criminal offense of statutory rape is committed when an adult sexually penetrates a person who, under the law, is incapable of consenting to sex. Minors and physically and mentally incapacitated persons are deemed incapable of consenting to sex under rape statutes in all states. These persons are considered deserving of special protection because they are especially vulnerable due to their youth or condition.
Most legislatures include statutory rape provisions in statutes that punish a number of different types of sexual assault. Statutory rape is different from other types of rape in that force and lack of consent are not necessary for conviction. A defendant may be convicted of statutory rape even if the complainant explicitly consented to the sexual contact and no force was used by the actor. By contrast, other rape generally occurs when a person overcomes another person by force and without the person's consent.
The actor's age is an important factor in statutory rape where the offense is based on the victim's age. Furthermore, a defendant may not argue that he was mistaken as to the minor's age or incapacity. Most rape statutes specify that a rape occurs when the complainant is under a certain age and the perpetrator is over a certain age. In Minnesota, for example, criminal sexual conduct in the first degree is defined as sexual contact with a person under thirteen years of age by a person who is more than thirty-six months older than the victim. The offense also is committed if the complainant is between thirteen and sixteen years old and the actor is more than forty-eight months older than the complainant (Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.342 [West 1996]).
Cocca, Carolyn E. 2004. Jailbait: The Politics of Statutory Rape Laws in the United States. Albany : State University of New York Press.