It should come as no surprise that sex crimes are some of the worst crimes that a person can be charged with. Sex offenders face some of the harshest punishments available, and once an individual is found guilty of a sex crime, ridding yourself of the legal repercussions and accompanying social stigmas is often close to impossible.
What you may not know, though, is that sometimes even consensual sex can result in some of those awful consequences. This may seem unfair or heinous, but it’s true—sometimes even consensual sex qualifies as a sex crime.
Sex Laws in Colorado
Because sex crime accusations are so serious and can have such dire consequences, it’s extremely important for everyone in our state to completely understand Colorado’s sexual activity laws.
The sexual activity laws in Colorado generally reflect the same sentiment that is held throughout most of the country. Prostitution, indecent exposure, and public indecency are all illegal and fall under the realm of sex crimes.
Indecent exposure. Indecent exposure is the act of consciously and willingly exposing one’s genitals to another person in a way that “causes the affront or alarm” of another person. Naturally, indecent exposure accusations can be complicated, since anyone can claim “affront or alarm,” even if the act was directed toward another consenting adult but happened to be unintentionally witnessed by a third party.
Public indecency. Public indecency can be cited for a number of actions, from urinating in public to having sex in public—but it’s most often cited for the latter. Although public indecency charges may seem silly to those caught in the act, this is an ideal example of a time when consensual sex would be considered a crime in the eyes of the court. If convicted, an individual charged with public indecency could face a $500 fine and up to six months in jail.
Prostitution. According to Colorado law, prostitution refers to giving or receiving monetary compensation in exchange for sexual acts. Even if the parties involved were consenting adults, sex acts with a prostitute would still be considered crimes and would still be illegal. Patronizing a prostitute can result in fines of up to $5,000 and up to 18 months in jail, while prostituting oneself is punishable by a fine of up to $750 and up to six months in jail.
Statutory rape (“sexual assault”). According to Colorado state law §18-3-402, sexual activities are considers sexual assault if one involved individual is younger than 15 years old and the other is at least four years older; or if one individual is at least 15 years old but less than 17, and the other is at least 10 years older. Because the law makes no mention of—and no exception for—claims that the sex acts were consensual, consent plays no role in determining the criminality of these acts. Consensual or not, if the above criteria are met, the acts are considered sexual assault in the eyes of the law.
Why Should Consensual Sex Be Illegal?
Because the Colorado age of consent is 15, anyone under the age of 15 is considered unable to make informed decisions. Thus sex with a 14-year-old would be considered taking advantage of that child and would be illegal. Colorado does make certain exceptions to its sexual assault law for young people who are close in age, but the nuances of these exceptions are complicated and should be handled and explained only by a practiced, knowedgeable lawyer.
But if the age of consent is 15, how can consensual sex with someone this age or older be considered a crime? The reasons are many and complex, as evidenced by the specific crimes you can be charged with above. Sometimes it may not be about the two people having sex, but others that were inadvertently affected, as in the case of public indecency. Or, if a legal adult is having sex with a 15-year-old and the age difference is too great, there is a belief that the minor may be unduly influenced.
When it comes to getting charged, “why?” doesn’t really matter – fighting back does. Because there are so many opportunities for consensual sex to fall under the realm of “sex crimes,” criminal accusations can sometimes take people completely by surprise. It’s not uncommon for a completely virtuous person to find himself or herself in trouble for a sex crime that they didn’t even know was committing. These mistakes are understandable. If you do not completely understand every detail of every Colorado sex law, it can be hard to know when you’re acting illegally.
Despite the vagueness surrounding some Colorado laws, sex crimes are still some of the most serious crimes. Despite the vagueness surrounding some Colorado laws, sex crimes are still some of the most serious crimes that a person can be charged with. If you find yourself going up against a sex crime allegation, do not laugh it off or consider it insignificant, even if you believe the allegation to be completely unfounded. Matters like these are very delicate and must be handled with the utmost care. Failure to do so could wind up costing you a lot more than just jail time and fines—you could find yourself registered as a sex offender, which has repercussions for the rest of your life.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing atThe 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.