“We’re in love!” “The sex was consensual!” “My partner’s practically an adult!”
Every one of these statements could be true, but if one sexual partner is under the age of 17, and the other is not, the older person is left open to charges of statutory rape.
Colorado law explicitly says it is illegal to have sex with a minor under 17, even if the victim willingly engages. There are only two exceptions: when sexual partners are close in age, and when they’re a married couple.
Even then, relying on the age argument can be a dicey game to play.
If your teen is sexually active, or may become sexually active, talk to them about the legal risks they could be taking. Statutory rape is still rape, and if your teen winds up in this situation he or she could face very serious charges and penalties.
In this post, we share the basics about Colorado’s statutory rape laws. Should you still have questions after reading, reach out to an experienced Colorado statutory rape defense attorney to learn more.
Colorado’s Age of Consent
The Colorado age of consent is 17 years old. This is defined as the minimum age at which an individual is legally old enough to consent to sexual activity.
Individuals 16 years of age or younger are not considered capable of consenting to sexual activity.
Therefore, having sex with anyone 16 or younger is considered non-consensual.
When this law is broken, it may result in prosecution for statutory rape. Again, there are only two exceptions to this rule.
Let’s take a closer look…
Close-In-Age and Marriage Exemptions in Colorado
A reality of modern society is that teens often become sexually active well before the age of 17. Because of this, Colorado statutory rape law includes close-in-age exemptions:
- 15- and 16-year-olds can lawfully engage in sex with partners less than 10 years older
- Minors under 15 can engage in sex with individuals less than four years older
Colorado also allows a spousal exemption from statutory rape charges when sexual partners are legally married. The legal age at which someone can get married is 18, but Colorado will allow 16- and 17-year-olds to marry with parental consent or judicial approval.
When neither of these conditions is met, the accused may face serious legal repercussions.
Colorado’s Statutory Rape Laws and Potential Penalties
Should violating the age of consent result in charges of statutory rape, upon conviction, penalties are assessed based on the ages of the victim and the defendant.
Here are the charges most frequently pressed:
Sexual Assault and the 4-year Close-in-Age Exemption
An individual who is at least four years older engaging in sexual activity with a minor under 15 is considered a Class 4 felony, punishable by 2-6 years in prison and required sex offender registration.
Sexual Assault and the 10-year Close-in-Age exemption
Individuals who are at least ten years older, and have sex with any minor between 15 and 17 are committing a Class 1 Misdemeanor, which carries a 6-18-month jail sentence and possible sex offender registration.
Sexual Assault of a Child
Any sexual touching (but not penetration) with a minor 14 years of age or younger when the defendant is at least four years older than the minor is charged as sexual assault of a child. This is a Class 4 Felony, punishable by 2-6 years in prison and required sex offender registration.
“Love” may be blind to age, but Colorado legislators and law enforcement are not. What your teen may think of a young love could wind up changing their course forever.
That’s why it is imperative for you to know and to talk to your teen(s) about the laws surrounding statutory rape. It could mean the difference between prison time and a normal life.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.