The goal of statutory rape charges is to protect younger, vulnerable people from predation by older individuals. Many people associate statutory rape claims with intentional “grooming.” Grooming is when a predator approaches someone younger than them and starts to manipulate that person. The sexual component of the grooming may not start for some time.

However, not every statutory rape charge results from long-term efforts. For example, you could face statutory rape charges if you have a one-night stand with an underage person after meeting on a dating app or in a bar

If your partner is under 16, you could wind up charged with a crime

Every state has its own age of consent at which point a young adult is able to agree to engage in sexual activity with someone else. In North Carolina, anyone who is at least 16 can theoretically give legal consent to sexual activity, provided there aren’t other complicating factors, such as a relationship with an adult in a position of authority over them.

Even if you only intend to share one night together (or less time than that), it’s important that you confirm the age of your sexual partners before anything happens between the two of you. Otherwise, you might be at risk of committing a crime even though you didn’t realize your partner was too young.

Anyone accused of a statutory rape offense or other sexual crime can face severe penalties if they are convicted. Getting help from an experienced criminal defense attorney can improve your chances of reducing the impact of those charges on your life.