Despite what many might think, Meridian Police Detective J-C Lewis says charges of statutory rape locally are very common.
"Some days you may not get anything. Some days you may have a rape case everyday of the week."
Often Lewis says these crimes involve juveniles assaulted by an adult, sometimes even his or her own parents. With this in mind he says it's important for people to remeber that in Mississippi a person must be 16-years or older before consenting to sex, otherwise it's considered a sexual assault. Furthermore, he says always remember no matter what....'NO MEANS NO!'
"At the point when she says 'NO'," says Lewis "....that's when everything should cease. If it doesn't, it's considered rape!"
An offense which carries some stiff penalties. For instance, in Mississippi anyone found guilty of statutory rape will face up to 20 years in prison and according to the law, MUST serve at least 85% of that sentence.
Aside from prison time, Detective Lewis says it often takes close to a year for the case to go to trial. However, he says even if found not builty, the accused is often labeled by some in the community.
"You life can go from being real good to VERY BAD in about 3 or 4 seconds if you don't make the right decision."
Although to some it might seem overboard, Detective Lewis says it's important to look at a person's drivers license or even birth certificate before taking a relationship to the next level. Afterall, he says 'It's better to be safe than SORRY!'