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Rape of a Person Below a Certain Age- Mistake as to Age is Not a Defense

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The purpose or spirit underlying the crime of rape of a child is to protect children regardless of the specific knowledge or intent of the person engaging in the rape.

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Rape Attorney, Harrisburg, PA

A person commits rape when the person engages in sexual intercourse with a complainant who is less than 13 years of age. The commonwealth may sustain its burden by proving this crime's elements with evidence which is entirely circumstantial and the trier of fact, who determines the credibility of witnesses and the weight to give the evidence produced, is free to believe all, part, or none of the evidence. The statute should be given a common sense application. Although a culpable mental state is generally required before criminal sanctions may be imposed, exceptions include sex offenses, such as rape, in which the victim's actual age is determinative, despite a defendant's reasonable belief that the girl has reached age of consent; thus, a defendant who engages in sex with a 12 year old, a person deemed incapable of consenting, is criminally liable for rape, regardless of the victim's consent or of the defendant's purported belief that the victim was 14 or 16. Thus, even though due process considerations impose some limitations on the absence of a knowledge requirement from the definition of a criminal offense, due process does not require that the appellant be afforded the defense of mistake of the victim's age and defense counsel is not ineffective for failing to challenge the constitutionality of a statute which does not afford a mistake of age defense.

If you've been charged with rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, sexual abuse of a child, indecent assault or corruption of a minor, it's important to contact an experienced defense attorney to discuss your case with you and the police, if necessary.  (See my web page link for three (3) essentials for a successful prosecution of a child sexual abuse case).  You may contact the offices of Shaffer & Engle toll free or email us today to discuss your case.

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