Age of Consent and Statutory Rape in Colorado
CRS 18-3-402

Statutory rape in Colorado involves sex with a person who is under the age of consent. Depending on the age difference of the people involved, having sex with someone who is underage can lead to criminal charges. Even if no force is involved, statutory rape is prosecuted as sexual assault, which can result in felony charges and require registration as a sex offender.

In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:

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Statutory rape in Colorado involves sex with a person who is under the age of consent. Depending on the age difference of the people involved, having sex with someone who is underage can lead to criminal charges.

1. What is the age of consent in Colorado?

The age of consent in Colorado is 17. Under the law, this means that someone who is under the age of 17 cannot legally consent to having sex. Sex with someone who is under the age of consent can be a criminal offense, depending on the ages of people involved. Sex with an underage minor could result in statutory rape charges.1

2. What is the Statutory Rape in Colorado?

Statutory rape is the term for having sex with someone who is not old enough to give legal consent. Under C.R.S. 18-3-402, sexual assault is defined as any sexual intrusion or sexual penetration on a victim without their consent. This can involve rape by submission of the victim, knowledge that the victim is incapable of consent, or facilitating sexual assault by giving the victim drugs or intoxicants. In the case of statutory rape, the victim is unable to legally give consent because of their age.

In many cases, the victim does not report the incident to police or law enforcement. Instead, it may be their parents, teachers, or even a jealous ex who reports statutory rape to the police.

People charged with statutory rape may feel that the term is unfair because it conjures up images of forcible sex and labels them as a rapist. However, under Colorado law, statutory rape and forcible rape are both charged as sexual assault.

3. Are there exceptions to statutory rape charges?

There are a couple of exceptions to statutory rape charges in Colorado, including a close-in-age exception and a marriage exception. A person who is under the age of 15 can have sex with someone who is within 4 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. This is because the older individual is not more than 4 years older.

The allowable age difference is greater for individuals older than 15, but younger than 17. Someone under the age of 17, but older than 15, can consent to having sex with someone who is not more than 10 years older. This is a broad close-in-age exception. For example, a 16-year-old could consent to having sex with a 25-year-old because the older individual is not more than 10 years older.

Additionally, the crime of statutory rape does not apply to individuals who are legally married. Sex with someone under the age of consent is not a criminal offense if it occurs between spouses.

These exceptions only apply to statutory rape, not other forms of sexual assault. There is no close-in-age or marriage exception to rape or sexual assault.

4. What are the penalties for statutory rape?

The penalties for statutory rape depend on a number of factors, including the age difference between the individuals involved and the defendant's criminal history. At the time of the commission of the act, if the victim is less than fifteen years of age and the actor is at least four years older than the victim, statutory rape is a class 4 felony. The maximum penalty for a class 4 felony includes up to 8 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000.

At the time of the commission of the act, if the victim is at least fifteen years of age but less than seventeen and the actor is at least ten years older than the victim, then the actor may be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor. Misdemeanor statutory rape is still considered an “extraordinary risk crime,” which allows for increased criminal penalties. The maximum penalty for a class 1 misdemeanor statutory rape conviction includes up to 24 months in jail, and a fine of up to $5,000.

5. Will I have to register as a sex offender for statutory rape?

A conviction for felony sexual assault requires registration as a sex offender. Your name will be entered into the Colorado Bureau of Investigation's sex offender registry. Anyone may be able to search for felony sex offenders on a state website available to the public. A conviction for misdemeanor sexual assault will not be listed on the sex offender registry. However, a second conviction for sexual assault may result be included on the sex offender registry.2

A sex offender will have to register with the local chief of police or county sheriff. This includes providing their name, date of birth, address, place of employment, fingerprints, a photograph, email addresses, and instant messaging or chat room identities. They have to re-register every year within 5 days of their birthday. They also have to re-register if they change address or begin working at an institution of higher education. Sexual assault convictions also subject the individual to lifetime supervision.

6. How do I defend myself against statutory rape charges?

Many people are surprised to learn they are charged with statutory rape because they believed the person to be over the age of consent. However, a mistake of fact is not a defense. Even if the underage victim said they were 17, having sex with them may still be considered statutory rape.

Verbal consent is not a defense to statutory rape charges. It does not matter if the underage individual wanted to have sex, agreed to have sex, or even instigated sex. No matter what the underage individual says or does, they are not legally able to consent to sex, making it a form of sexual assault.

Even if you think you do not have a chance to fight statutory rape charges, you may have a number of possible defenses in your case. It is also the prosecutor's burden of proof to show that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Possible defenses may include showing no sexual intercourse occurred or the alleged victim is making false accusations. Your Colorado criminal defense attorney will examine the evidence, conduct an investigation of the incident, and identify all available defenses in your case.

7. Related Offenses

Depending on the age of the individuals involved and the type of sexual contact, statutory rape may be related to the offense of sexual assault on a child. Sexual assault on a child is similar to statutory rape but does not require sexual penetration.

7.1 Sexual Assault on a Child, C.R.S. 18-3-405

Anyone who knowingly subjects another to any sexual contact commits sexual assault on a child if the victim is less than 15 years of age and the actor is at least 4 years older than the victim. Sexual assault of a child is a class 4 felony. Sexual assault of a child is a class 3 felony if they used force, threats, or threat of retaliation. Sexual assault on a child also requires registering as a sex offender in Colorado.

Call us for help...

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If you were accused of statutory rape, please contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group. Our caring Colorado DUI lawyers have many years of experience representing facing date rape criminal charges. We are among the best Colorado criminal defense attorneys to call. Contact us today for a free consultation by phone or in-person or in our Denver law office.


Legal References

  1. C.R.S. 18-3-402
  2. C.R.S. 16-22-112(2)(b)(II)

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