Statutory Rape Laws in Rhode Island: Age of Consent and Legal Consequences

Statutory Rape Laws in Rhode Island: Age of Consent and Legal Consequences

In Rhode Island, “statutory rape” is defined as an adult having consensual sex with a minor who’s too young to legally consent. But this definition might make you wonder how rape and consent could possibly occur at the same time.

As a Rhode Island statutory rape defense attorney with 25+ years of successfully advocating for clients, the Law Office of John E. MacDonald is very familiar with these scenarios.

That’s why we put together this guide on statutory rape laws in Rhode Island. Below, you’ll find clear information on the age of consent, potential exemptions, and the legal consequences you may face as a result of these charges.

What is the Legal Age of Consent in Rhode Island?

The legal age of consent in Rhode Island is 16 years old. This means under Rhode Island law, a minor aged 15 or younger typically can’t consent to sexual acts.

And a minor can’t simply decide to give their consent anyway. If you as an adult engage in a sexual relationship with someone aged 15 or younger, you can be charged with third-degree sexual assault—regardless of whether the minor insists they gave consent.


Does Rhode Island Have a “Close-In-Age” Exemption for Statutory Rape Laws?

Yes, Rhode Island has a “close-in-age” exemption for statutory rape laws. Also known as a “Romeo and Juliet law,” this gives legal protection to minors who are in a consensual relationship and close in age. Per R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-37-6, if the two involved people are no more than 30 months apart in age, they’re exempt.

So, a 15-year-old and a 17-year-old could legally have a relationship even though Rhode Island’s age of consent is technically 16 years old.

But it’s important to remember these laws exist primarily to protect relationships between teens in high school. Once you’re 18 or older, you’re no longer eligible for these exemptions—even if you two are 30 months (or less) apart in age.

If you’d like to learn more about possible exemptions and start building your defense, contact the Law Offices of John E. MacDonald now at (401) 421-1440. With 25+ years of successful experience defending statutory rape cases, there’s nothing we haven’t seen or heard.

Legal Consequences of Statutory Rape in Rhode Island

Rhode Island laws don’t actually use the term ‘statutory rape.’ Instead, the offense is categorized as third-degree sexual assault. This is a felony charge in the state of Rhode Island.

The potential legal consequences following a conviction for third-degree sexual assault in RI are:

  • Up to five years in jail
  • Registering as a sex offender
  • Fees and fines, which potentially include costs of treatment for the victim
  • Additional jail time if you ever commit subsequent sex crimes

It’s also an unfortunate truth that people in your life are likely to look at you differently, even after you’ve completed your sentence.

Registering as a sex offender can make life a lot harder—suddenly, you’re automatically excluded from certain jobs and even housing opportunities. You have to regularly update your information in a public database, plus any fees assessed by local police.

And if you want to travel internationally? You’ll most likely have to notify the police at least three weeks in advance, plus give them details of where you’ll be.

The above list may seem short, but the impacts of these penalties can’t be overstated.

What Rights Do Accused Individuals Have in Rhode Island Statutory Rape Cases?

Accused individuals in RI statutory rape cases have the following rights:

  • Right to a speedy public trial
  • Right to a completely impartial jury
  • Right to be informed of the accusation/charges against you
  • Right to be aware of witness testimony against you
  • Right to an attorney
  • Right to protect yourself from self-incrimination
  • Right to remain silent
  • Right to bail, or a bail/probation hearing if you’re held without bail

These rights are spelled out in the Constitution of the State of Rhode Island.

But the truth is, the Rhode Island legal system takes an extremely severe stance on all sexual assault crimes. You need an experienced, aggressive Rhode Island statutory rape defense lawyer who’ll fiercely advocate on your behalf and ensure your rights are protected around the clock.

That’s exactly what you can expect from the Law Offices of John E. MacDonald.

Plus, with a proven track record in both state and federal courts, John E. MacDonald is widely recognized as a top RI sex crime attorney. Call us now at 401.421.1440 to start building your custom defense strategy.

What Are Common Legal Defenses Against Statutory Rape Charges in Rhode Island?

Some common legal defenses against statutory rape charges in Rhode Island include:

  • The “Romeo and Juliet” exemption – If you and the other party are both aged 14 to 17 and you’re no more than 30 months apart in age
  • Statute of limitations – For statutory rape charges, Rhode Island has a three-year statute of limitations, meaning you can’t be charged beyond this time period

Many people are surprised to not see misinformation or mistake of fact listed. In Rhode Island, this simply isn’t allowed. It doesn’t matter if the minor seemed more mature—this isn’t a legal defense strategy you can use.

You see, there’s no cut-and-dry legal defense or step-by-step guide to getting statutory rape charges dismissed in Rhode Island. The best way to secure a favorable outcome while ensuring your rights are protected is by working with an aggressive, focused, and experienced RI statutory rape defense lawyer.

If you or a loved one is facing these harrowing charges, call the Law Office of John E. MacDonald now at (401) 421.1440. The faster you schedule your consultation, the faster we can start working on your custom legal defense.