Brief Fact Summary. Defendant was charged with second-degree rape for having intercourse with a 13 year-old girl.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Intent and consent of the child is irrelevant under a statute prohibiting intercourse with a child.
Defendant Owens was caught with a 13 year-old in the back of his car. He was at the time 18 years old. The victim told Defendant that she was 16 years old. The charge against Defendant was rape in the second degree for having intercourse with a minor under State law. State law made it a crime to have intercourse with someone less than 14 years of age. Defendant contended that the statute created an irrebuttable presumption that was unconstitutional because it violated his due process rights.
Issue. Whether the statute is a violation of Defendant’s due process rights because it creates an irrebuttable presumption that the victim’s mental state is irrelevant.
The statute does not create an irrebuttable presumption; rather it makes intent and consent of the child irrelevant and strictly prohibits the act Defendant committed.
The state has an interest in protecting children less than 14 years of age, which is sufficient enough overcome any due process concerns.
Discussion. Points of Law - for Law School Success
Exceptions came to include sex offenses, such as rape, in which the victim's actual age was determinative despite defendant's reasonable belief that the girl had reached age of consent. View Full Point of Law
The Court first discussed why the statute did not create a presumption of any kind. The statute is merely a strict prohibition against the conduct in question and does not allow for a presumption regarding intent/consent of any kind. Even if the statute could be viewed as creating a presumption, the state’s interest in protecting minors is sufficient to overcome any due process concerns. The Court distinguished this case from other Supreme Court decisions where provisions of laws were struck down as in violation of the Defendant’s due process rights. In those cases, the court ruled that the statute in question took one fact of no relation to the objective of the law and made a presumption from it. Here with respect to a statutory rape law, it is a strict prohibition and the age requirement is connected to the objective of the statute.