Gwinnett County man, Felipe Nunez Martinez, has been charged with two counts of statutory rape after having consensual sexual intercourse with a 14 year-old girl who claimed to be 17.
According to police reports, Martinez met the teen, who lives in Hope, Arkansas, online. Martinez, 23, told the girl that he was 20 years old and the teen, 14, told Martinez that she was 17. After exchanging text messages, Martinez drove to Arkansas and picked up the girl from her home. They spent a night in an Arkansas hotel before he brought her back to his apartment in Norcross, Georgia. The girl was reported missing back in Arkansas and police stated that she sent her mom a text message telling her that she was in Georgia and that she wanted to come home. Gwinnett County police officers went to Martinez’s apartment to pick up the girl and she admitted that she was not held against her will. Martinez, who claimed to be in love with the girl, was arrested and charged with two counts of statutory rape.
This case is a perfect example of why Georgia’s sex offense laws are in need of reform. In Georgia, a person commits the offense of statutory rape when he or she engages in sexual intercourse with any person under the age of 16 years (who is not his or her spouse). Georgia law also states that not only is consent irrelevant in statutory rape cases, but the reasonable belief that a person was “of age” is also irrelevant. In other words, the fact that the teen lied about her age cannot be used by Martinez as a defense to the statutory rape charge.
Situations like the one involving Martinez are not uncommon and are frustrating to criminal defense lawyers. Although statutory rape laws were created to protect people under the age of consent, the law unfortunately affords no protection for the person who had no intent to commit a crime and who truly believed that the person was of age.
Sex offense laws in many states are broken down into varying degrees depending on the severity of the offense. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in Georgia. For instance, it would make much more sense if the statutory rape law in Georgia differentiated between people who intended to have intercourse with a minor versus those who were misled into believing a minor was actually of age. At the present time, both of these people are subject to the same punishment under the statute. By classifying the offenses into different degrees, the latter group could, perhaps, receive misdemeanor punishment and avoid the severe consequences that typically accompany a conviction for a sex offense.
Perhaps cases such as this one will get the attention of our state legislators and cause them to rethink our sex offense laws. The current across-the-board punishment for anyone in violation of a statute results in good people being placed in our prisons and on our sex offender registry.
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