Age of consent is something that many people overlook. Unfortunately, doing so can get you in a lot of trouble.
Once teens reach adolescence and begin dating, it can be a tricky line to walk if there’s an age gap between two people. What may seem like an innocent teen relationship can turn into something ugly if statutory rape charges are pursued. Therefore, it’s important to understand the basics of age of consent laws in Colorado, and what it means for you.
What you will learn in this article:
- What is the Age of Consent in Colorado?
- What is Statutory Rape?
- Statutory Rape Conviction Penalties.
- What to Do if You Are Accused of Rape.
What is the Age of Consent in Colorado?
By legal definition, the age of consent is the age at which a person can legally give consent or permission to have sexual relations. Colorado law states that a person of 17 years of age can legally consent to sexual interactions, regardless of the age of his or her partner (as long as that partner is also at least 17 years old).
The law aims to protect persons 17 or over and several exemptions such as the “Romeo and Juliet law” have been established to prevent the prosecution of underage couples. This close-in-age exemption can provide defense for individuals who have participated in a consensual sexual activity in which one or both parties are under the age of consent.
However, if a person over the age of consent has sex with someone under the age of consent, that person could potentially face statutory rape criminal charges in Colorado.
The following exceptions may be made on behalf of Colorado’s “Romeo and Juliet” law:
A young person who is under the age of 15, can choose to have sexual intercourse with a person who is within 4 years of his or her age.
Example: Sarah is 15 and chooses to have sex with John, who is 18. Though she is below the technical age of consent, because John is within 4 years of her age, they can choose to engage in sexual intercourse. If instead, John was 21, he could be charged criminally, as Sarah is too young to consent to have sex with him.
If the person is at least 15 but younger than 17 years old, he or she can consent to engage in sexual intercourse with a person within 10 years of his or her age.
This means that a person who is 15 years old could consent to have sex with someone who is 24 years old because the older person is not more than 10 years older than the younger person.
Can Someone Under 17 Consent to Sex with Someone Over 17?
No. Even if the sex itself is consensual, individuals who are under the age of 17 are not permitted to consent to have sex with someone older than 17. In this instance, the older party is still guilty of a crime, even if the younger partner agreed to participate in the sexual acts. This is also true if the younger party not only consented but also initiated the sexual interaction.
What is Statutory Rape?
Statutory rape is a criminal offense in which a person has sex with someone who is under the age of consent. This falls under the category of sexual assault, which can result in very serious consequences ranging from misdemeanor to felony charges, depending on the age difference and sexual acts between the two people in question.
Even if the sex technically is consensual — as in both parties give consent — it is still considered sexual assault because the younger person is under the age of consent. Someone convicted of sexual assault under the statutory rape clause will have to register as a sex offender with the state.
Statutory rape is a tricky thing to navigate, as the rules and laws surrounding it vary from state to state. In Colorado, the following laws regarding statutory rape are in place:
- If the defendant had sex with someone under 15 and the defendant is at least four years older and not their spouse, then the defendant can be charged with sexual assault of a child.
- If the defendant had sex with someone over the age of 15 but under the age of 17 and the defendant is at least 10 years older and not their spouse, then the defendant can be charged with sexual assault.
Penalties for Conviction of Statutory Rape in Colorado
Getting convicted of statutory rape in Colorado can result in a range of severe consequences, including:
- Prison time – possibly for the rest of your natural life
- Sex offender registration – possibly for the rest of your natural life
Again, the laws surrounding statutory rape are difficult to navigate and understand. Therefore, it’s best to seek legal counsel from a qualified criminal defense lawyer should you face charges or are being investigated for statutory rape in Colorado. You should also research and understand your rights if you are accused of a sex crime.
Can You Be Found Guilty of Statutory Rape if the Other Person Lied About His or Her Age?
It’s not uncommon for criminal defendants to argue that they were unaware of their partners’ true ages. In some instances, the party assumes his or her partner is of age; in other cases, the younger person might lie about his or her age. Neither of these scenarios is a defense in the state of Colorado. Under Colorado law, it doesn’t matter if the defendant knew the other party was under 17 or not; it’s still a crime.
Colin M.Bresee is a successful Denver-based sexual assault attorney who specializes in cases of sexual assault. If you’re facing statutory rape charges, contact us for a consultation. We’re ready to stand by you and take your case.