Three Things You Should Know about “Rape of a Child”

Things to know:

  1. It doesn’t matter if it was consensual.

Many people assume that the term “rape” implies that some amount of force was used by the perpetrator. Wrong! In fact, force isn’t something the government has to prove regardless of whether the complaining witness is a child or an adult.

Moreover, if an adult is accused of having sex with a child under the age of 16, the government doesn’t have to prove lack of consent either. This is because the law decrees that someone under the age of 16 is legally incapable of consenting to sex. So even if you were engaging in what you considered a consensual sexual relationship with a 15-year-old, you could still be charged with rape. It is the age of the child that makes the sex act illegal.

“Rape of a child” is the modern name in Washington State for the crime that used to be called “statutory rape.”

  1. The degree (seriousness) of the charge depends on the age of the child.

Any adult who has sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 16 could face a charge of Rape of a Child, but the degree of the crime and the possible penalties will depend on the child’s age at the time the intercourse occurred.

  • If the child was younger than 12, the charge will be Rape of a Child in the first degree.
  • If the child was 12 or 13, the charge will be Rape of a Child in the second degree.
  • If the child was 14 or 15, the charge will be Rape of a Child in the third degree.


In order to be charged with one of these offenses, the perpetrator must be at least two years older if the child was younger than 12, three years older if the child was 12 or 13, and four years older if the child was 14 or 15

Both first- and second-degree offenses are Class A felony offenses, but the standard sentencing ranges are slightly different. For someone with no prior offenses, the standard sentencing range for a first-degree offense is 93 to 123 months in prison, while the range for a second-degree offense is 78 to 102 months in prison. Unless there are aggravating or mitigating circumstances, a judge must give a sentence within that range.

However, sentences for both are “indeterminate.” This means that an offender must go before a review board right before the end of their prison sentence, and if the board determines that the offender is likely to commit another sex offense upon being released, the term in prison can be extended for up to five years. This process can be repeated indefinitely, meaning an offender may never be released. Those who are released will be supervised under “community custody” for the rest of their lives.

A third-degree offense is a Class C felony, and for someone with no prior convictions, the standard sentencing range is 12 to 14 months in prison. After being released from prison, an offender will have three years of community supervision.

  1. It is imperative that you get an attorney immediately.

Whether you admit or deny the serious allegations against you, it is always wise to have an attorney representing your interests to ensure the best possible outcome. An attorney with experience handling these types of cases may be able to interview the complaining child to help build a defense. They can also engage expert witnesses to determine whether there is any evidence that others who interviewed the child in the course of the investigation suggested or led the child (intentionally or unintentionally) to report things that actually did not occur.

An attorney can explore whether any evidence was obtained unlawfully (and should be excluded), as well as possible defenses. While it is NOT a defense that you didn’t know how old the child was, if they lied about their age and you reasonably believed them, that is an affirmative defense that can be raised.

Even if you don’t wish to go to trial, an experienced attorney can use their knowledge of rape cases to negotiate an agreement with the prosecutor.

If you are facing charges for Rape of a Child, the Marshall Defense Firm is here to help. Our experienced, skilled defense attorneys would be happy to discuss the matter with you. Please contact us at 206.826.1400 or to schedule a consultation.


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