Constitutional Law

Ohio Supreme Court Strikes Down Statutory Rape Law as Applied to Two Kids Under Age 13

The Ohio Supreme Court has struck down the state’s statutory rape law in a case involving a 12-year-old boy accused of sexual conduct with a boy who was a year younger.

The unanimous opinion (PDF) found the law is unconstitutionally vague as applied to sexual conduct between two youths under the age of 13. The court also held the decision to charge just one of the two youths violates the equal protection clause.

“When an adult engages in sexual conduct with a child under the age of 13, it is clear which party is the offender and which is the victim,” the court said. “But when two children under the age of 13 engage in sexual conduct with each other, each child is both an offender and a victim, and the distinction between those two terms breaks down.”

The court noted that the youth charged, identified as “D.B.,” did not use force in the sexual encounters. A child under 13 could be guilty of rape, however, if he or she used force or threats, or there are other special circumstances, the court said.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Columbus Dispatch covered the opinion.

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