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When Colorado authorities uncovered a relationship between a 34-year-old man and a 14-year-old girl, they charged him with child molestation.
Even though the relationship was reportedly consensual, it has been considered a felony offense. This is because in Colorado to have sex with a victim who is less than 15 years of age if you are more than four years older than them.
There is one exception to this rule — state law includes a spousal exemption from sexual assault charges if the parties are married. Turns out the man and the minor girl were married, he was able to have his charges dropped to stalking.
Another possible motive was only revealed later when the girl told reporters from the Colorado Sun, “At that point in my life, I thought he loved me. I found out that’s not why he married me. He married me so he wouldn’t go to prison.”
Even though the man was able to get his sexual assault on a child charges dropped, the incident illustrates how consensual sex can be illegal in Colorado. Namely, if the victim is below the age of sexual consent.
In Colorado, the age of sexual consent is defined as the minimum age at which someone is considered legally old enough to consent to engage in sexual activity.
Colorado upholds an age of sexual consent to safeguard minors from becoming victims of sexual advances from older people. In these types of crimes, the minor is considered the victim, and the adult is considered the perpetrator.
In Colorado, the age of sexual consent is 17 years old. However, state law recognizes a “close-in-age” exemption, which allows 15- and 16-year olds to engage in sexual acts with partners who are less than ten years older, and minors younger than 15 to engage in sexual acts with partners less than four years older.
As we saw in the previous story, Colorado also has a “marriage exemption”. Under the Colorado marriage exemption, the perpetrator is exempt from statutory rape and sexual assault charges if they are married to the victim.
In our state, the legal age to marry is 18 — however, younger people may wed with parental consent or judicial approval.
If it violates the age of sexual consent laws in Colorado, even consensual sex can become illegal. Below, we’ve summarized four scenarios when you could be charged with a crime for engaging or attempting to engage in sexual activity, even if it is with someone who “consents.”
It is a Class 4 felony to have sex with a minor who is under 15 years old if you are at least four years older than them.
It is a Class 3 felony to have sex with a minor who is 14 years or younger if you are in a position of trust — such as a teacher or coach. It is a Class 4 felony if the minor is between 15 and 17.
It is a Class 4 felony to invite or persuade a minor who is under the age of 15 to enter a place if you intend to commit sexual assault or make unlawful sexual contact on that minor.
It is a Class 5 felony to knowingly communicate over the internet with a victim you believe to be under 15 if you describe sexual conduct and invite or persuade the minor to meet if you are more than four years older than the minor.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been recognized by countless legal organizations for his exemplary defense work, including Avvo, Best DWI Attorneys, Expertise, Lawyers of Distinction, The National Trial Lawyers, and others. He was also named one of the 10 Best in Client Satisfaction in Colorado by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys for 2020, and is Lead Counsel rated.