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Celebrity paternity scandal could bring statutory rape charges

We have previously written about the legal mess created by Wisconsin's statutory rape laws. Charges of statutory rape often stem from consensual sex between two teenagers who are dating or in a committed relationship.

In Wisconsin, a person younger than 16 years old cannot legally consent to having sex. Therefore, a 17-year-old boyfriend could be charged with second-degree assault if he is sexually active with his 15-year-old girlfriend.

Statutory rape laws vary by state, and some states make allowances based on the age of those involved. Recently, a celebrity paternity scandal has shed light on statutory rape laws in California.

A young woman recently filed a paternity suit against teen pop sensation Justin Bieber. She claims that the two had a brief sexual encounter in a backstage bathroom after one of his concerts last year and that he is the father of her baby.

By coming forward, however, the woman risks exposing herself to criminal charges for statutory rape. At the time of the alleged encounter, she had just turned 19 years old while Bieber would have been just 16.

In California, it is illegal to have sex with anyone under the age of 18. However, the law also states that if the adult is no more than 3 years older than the minor, a misdemeanor charge applies.

The woman has not been charged with statutory rape, but authorities in Los Angeles have said they can investigate the matter now that the paternity suit has been filed. If she were to be charged and convicted, she could face up to one year in jail.

Representatives for Bieber have denied the allegations and the woman has asked a judge to order a paternity test. Lawyers say that if Bieber does turn out to be the father, the young woman can seek child support regardless of any hypothetical criminal convictions for statutory rape.

Source: CBS News, "Police: Bieber sexual tryst may be investigated," Nov. 3, 2011

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