What Is Considered Statutory Rape?

As we all know, turning 16 and turning 18 are big milestones in the United States, and each come with new legal rights and responsibilities. At 16 you can legally drive, work with less restrictions, and more. At 18 you are officially an adult and can vote, get a tattoo or piercing, be on a jury, enlist in the military, and plenty of others. While it’s less well known, turning 17 in Colorado also comes with a new legal right – the ability to consent to sexual activities. In Colorado, the age of consent is 17 years. This means that minors age 16 and younger are not legally able to consent to sexual intercourse. According to law, having sex with someone 16 years or younger is considered statutory rape, even if the minor is willing.

What Is Considered Statutory Rape in Colorado? Rules and Exceptions for Sex With Minors and Sex Between Minors

There are some exceptions to this rule, with the most common being the “Romeo and Juliet” exception. This law allows minors who are close to the same age to have sex without breaking the law. Another exception is if the parties are married, regardless of their age. One of the most common explanations for statutory rape is that the adult was unaware of the minors age. And even if that’s the truth, it is not an allowable defense in Colorado.  

Defenses to Statutory Rape 

Marriage Exception

Colorado has a marriage exemption for statutory rape that allows a married couple to have consensual sex even if their ages would normally make the act unlawful. For example, a 16 year old girl having sex with her 26 year old boyfriend would be considered rape, as she is not legally capable of giving consent. However, a 16 year old wife having sex with her 26 year old husband would be considered legal.

Romeo & Juliet Exception 

Colorado statutory rape laws also have an exception for minors who are close to the same age. The exemption allows for consensual sex between a minor 14 or younger and a defendant who is three or fewer years older. There is also an exception for a 15 or 16 year old minor who has sex with an adult 9 or fewer years older. So although they are below the age of consent, a 14 year old can have legally have sex with a 17 year old or younger. Likewise, a 15 year old can have sex with a 24 year old or younger. 

Mistaking the Minors Age 

Unfortunately, it happens all too often where the older party was not aware the minor was underage. This can either be because they were simply unaware of their age, or because the younger party lied about their age. In Colorado, it doesn’t matter how the victim represented themselves or what a reasonable person would believe. Mistake of age is not an allowable defense in Colorado for statutory rape charges. 

Penalties for Statutory Rape 

Penalties will depend on the age of both parties and other situational factors. The penalties for these charges are outlined in: (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 18-1.3-401, 18-1.3-501, 18-3-401, 18-3-402 (2018) and (Co. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 18-1.3-401, 18-1.3-501, 18-3-401, 18-3-405 (2018).)

A minor 14 years or younger and a defendant at least four years older than the minor is considered sexual assault. This is a class four felony, and can lead to prison time, fines and sex offender registration. 

A minor 15 or 16 years old, and a defendant at least 10 years older, is also considered sexual assault. This is considered a class one misdemeanor, which is punishable by jail and/or prison time, and fines and sex offender registration. 

Sexual assault on a child is a slightly different charge, because it does not require penetration. Any sexual touching, even over clothes, is a crime when the minor is 14 or younger and the defendant is at least 4 years older. This offense is a class four felony, and is punishable by prison time and fines and sex offender registration. 

For more information on what sex offender registration entails, see our blog post Life As A Registered Sex Offender. 

Need Help?

We know that these situations are complex, and often have many sides to the story. If you are in need of legal help, consider reaching out to Nicol Gersch Law for a free 30-minute consultation. Find more information at https://NicolGerschLaw.Com or call 970.670.0378.

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