Reasonable Mistake of Age: A Needed Defense to Statutory Rape

Hernandez represents the first positive judicial step toward changing the irrational rules which currently control the crime of statutory rape, and its import should furnish a touchstone for the future development of the law of all sex crimes. In the brief period since the Hernandez decision was handed down it has been reaffirmed by its authors, and the legislatures in two other states have enacted statutes which embrace its sound reasoning. However, at least one state has evidenced an intent to follow the traditional judicial approach of imposing strict liability, notwithstanding the defendant’s reasonable mistake with respect to the true age of the prosecutrix. Thus, the following analysis is offered to encourage continued acceptance of the Hernandez rationale and, it is hoped, to forestall any further retrogression.