I recently read a story about a 19 years old boy sentenced to jail and to be registered as a sex offender for 25 years for having sex with a 14 year old girl who lied about her age. The girl and her mother testified on behalf of the accused, saying that the sex was consensual and that she told him she was 17. Unfortunately, that didn't matter.

I read that if she showed him a fake ID so well done it's impossible to discern from a real ID, that wouldn't have mattered either. I also read that even with notarised written statements you will still be found guilty. (Curiously enough the reverse, ie propositioning sex to a person who is over the age of consent but lies saying they're younger, is also illegal)

Radiocarbon dating for samples less than 100 years old is so unreliable it's basically useless. Even if the person looks very old, there are certain diseases that cause rapid ageing so they potentially are underage.

With all that in mind, is there any way to have sex on US soil without running the risk of being labeled a sex offender?

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    Can you provide a reference backing up what you read (your second paragraph) saying that a good-faith/reasonable effort to verify someone's age is not a safe harbor against statutory rape? That does not sound correct, and that seems to be the core of your question. – feetwet Aug 16 '15 at 11:26
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    No, his actions were illegal, which is why he was prosecuted. However, if he had made a reasonable effort to verify her age my expectation (though I don't know the law on this) is that would have been an absolute defense against the charge of statutory rape. Maybe he did, and that's why he was advised to plead guilty, and the outrage is that the judge disregarded that defense. In which case his conviction will be overturned on appeal. Or maybe he didn't, and his counsel was expecting leniency but didn't get it. But without a reference on your assertion there's no question here. – feetwet Aug 16 '15 at 12:02
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    @feetwet If you have an absolute defense, you never plead guilty. I'm not sure what you're thinking of, but absolute defenses remove criminal liability if successfully established, so it is sheer madness to plead guilty and become a convicted rapist if you had a defense (note that pleading guilty means you can never bring up that defense, because you aren't facing a trier of fact for a factual question about whether you tried to verify age). – cpast Aug 16 '15 at 12:37
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    By the way, radiocarbon dating is only effective on dead things. – HDE 226868 Aug 16 '15 at 18:37
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    Sex with yourself remains legal when done in private. – RoboKaren Aug 21 '15 at 0:01

In many US states (and in the UK), statutory rape is a strict liability offense. This means that there is no intent requirement at all; the only allowable defenses are those that negate the actual act (there was no sex, the person was of age, or sometimes that the action was not a conscious or voluntary action), it falls within a statutory exception to the crime, or there is an applicable defense that has nothing to do with intent. Many general defenses do not apply to strict liability crimes; in particular, "I thought X when Y was true" tries to show there was to intent to commit the crime, which is irrelevant.

In Michigan (where the crime took place), statutory rape is evidently such an offense. That throws some standard defenses into doubt, because anything based on negating criminal intent doesn't matter. However, Michigan does specifically say that it is not criminal to have sex with a person under 16 if they are your legal spouse; this is a very common exception to statutory rape laws. So, marriage is a way to not risk jail for statutory rape in Michigan.

However, things do vary by state. In Indiana, it is specifically a defense that the defendant had a reasonable belief that the victim was over the age of consent (unless it was a forcible rape).

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    Can somebody under 16 be married in Michigan? – Ken Sharp Jan 17 '16 at 20:51
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    @KenSharp In special cases, and with court approval, yes (under the provision of the laws allowing for secret marriage). From what I can tell, court approval is quite rare (googling suggests it was most often given when the girl is pregnant, but in that case you did things in the wrong order to avoid statutory rape laws). – cpast Jan 17 '16 at 23:04
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    @cpast Don't states generally acknowledge each other's marriages, though? So, you wouldn't necessarily have to get married in MI, just some place whose marriages are recognized by MI, right? – reirab Aug 9 '16 at 17:57
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    It's not uncommon for Statutory Rape laws to have an exception for cases where the two participants are both under-aged to avoid this. Usually there is some window between the ages. There may also be an exception for when on participant is 18 and the other is 17 as by rules as written, that would count, though only the staunchest anti-teen sex advocate would say it's inappropriate. All that said, it looks like MI didn't think about this when they wrote their laws on the matter. – hszmv Apr 3 '18 at 18:12
  • There is a caveat for statutory rape in English law. The relevant law is the Sexual Offences Act 2006. There is strict liability for sex with those aged 14 or under. There is also liability for sex with those aged 14-16, but if it can be proven that the defendant reasonably thought the person was of age, then it is not statutory rape (though common sense rules of consent still apply etc). – Shazamo Morebucks Jun 8 '18 at 9:47

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