December 1, 2022
Statutory rape laws are based on the premise that minor children are incapable of informed consent to sex acts. The inability of minors to form consent is written in the statutes – hence the term “statutory rape.”
In statutory rape, the prosecution need not prove that an assault took place, or that the sex act(s) were committed forcibly. Even a romantic relationship with someone under the age of consent is considered statutory rape if sexual activity takes place.
Statutory rape is prosecuted under Colorado’s sexual assault laws, and if convicted, a defendant may be required to register as a sex offender. It’s therefore very important to understand how Colorado’s statutory rape laws work, and how to avoid this serious sex crime charge.
How Colorado Law Defines Statutory Rape
Statutory rape refers to having sex with someone who is not old enough to give legal consent. Sexual assault is defined as any sexual intrusion or sexual penetration of a victim without their informed consent. This can include forcible rape, but also sexual activity in which the victim is incapable of forming consent.
In Colorado, the age of consent is 17. This means that someone who is under the age of 17 is legally incapable of forming consent for sexual activity. Sex with someone under the age of consent can result in statutory rape charges, depending on the ages of the people involved.
Defendants charged with statutory rape may feel that the charge of “rape” is unfair, as it implies that forcible sex took place, and labels them a rapist. However, both forcible rape and statutory rape are charged as sexual assault.
In most statutory rape cases, the victim does not report the incident(s) to law enforcement. It may instead be reported by the victim’s parents, teachers, or even a jealous ex or friend.
Exceptions to Statutory Rape in Colorado
There are a few exceptions to statutory rape charges in Colorado, including if the defendant is close in age to the victim, or married to the victim.
Specifically, a person under the age of 15 can have sex with someone who is within four years of their age. For example, a 14-year-old can have sex with a 17-year-old, even though the 14-year-old is under the age of consent.
If the victim is older than 15 but under 17, the permissible age difference is 10 years, which is much wider. For example, a 16-year-old can consent to have sex with a 25-year-old because the defendant is not more than 10 years older.
Additionally, the charge of statutory rape does not apply if the individuals concerned are legally married at the time the sex act(s) occur. However, common-law marriages, in which the individuals live together, do not count.
Colorado Statutory Rape Sentencing and Penalties
The sentencing and penalties for statutory rape depend on a number of factors, such as the defendant’s prior criminal history and the age difference between the defendant and victim.
If the victim is under 15 and the defendant is at least four years older, statutory rape is charged as a Class 4 felony, which is punishable by up to eight years of imprisonment and fines up to $500,000.
If the victim is at least 15 but under 17 and the defendant is at least 10 years older than the victim, statutory rape may be charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor. The maximum penalty for misdemeanor statutory rape is up to 24 months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
Additionally, persons convicted of certain sex crimes must be entered into the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s sex offender registry. Felony statutory rape is one of these crimes. If you are convicted of misdemeanor statutory rape and have prior misdemeanor-level sex crime convictions, you will also be required to register as a sex offender.
As a registered sex offender, you will face a significant negative social stigma, and have trouble finding housing and gainful employment. Your address and workplace will also be publicly available, and it’s not unheard of for registered sex offenders to face harassment from neighbors and other community members.
Charges Related to Statutory Rape in Colorado
A number of other sex crime charges can also arise from engaging in a sexual relationship with a minor. For example, sexting is very common in romantic relationships, especially among young people. If you engage in sending sexually explicit images with a minor, you could be charged with child pornography, enticement of a child, or other child pornography-related sex crimes.
The serious nature of the charges and penalties associated with these crimes means that you need to be aware of the laws surrounding Colorado statutory rape, and fight back with the strongest possible defense if you hope to beat any sex crime charges against you.
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 designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.