Sexual contact with a child under 15
In Colorado, you commit sexual assault on a child when:
- You fondle a child under age fifteen (or you cause the child to fondle you), and
- You are at least four years older than the child.
The title of this offense is somewhat misleading. Although it is called sexual assault, it is actually the underage equivalent of Colorado's sexual contact law, 18-3-404 C.R.S. It is a less serious offense than one involving penetration or intrusion, which is punished under 18-3-402 C.R.S., Colorado's sexual assault law.
Penalties for sexual assault on a child usually include at least two years in prison. But the sentence can be as much as life in prison if you use force or injure the child.
To help you better understand the consequences of sexual assault on a child, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below:
- 1. What is sexual assault on a child?
- 2. Penalties for sexual assault on a child
- 2.1. Criminal penalties
- 2.2. No statute of limitations for sexual abuse
- 2.3. Colorado sex offender registration
- 3. Defenses to sexual assault on a child
Sexual assault on a child is defined as sexual contact with a child under the age of fifteen and at least four years younger than you are.
It consists of touching the child's breast(s), buttocks, or genital area for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse.
The sexual contact can consist of either:
- you touching the child, or
- your causing the child to touch you.
It is not necessary that your or the child's intimate parts be naked. Touching a child through his or her clothing is enough, if the purpose of the touching is sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse.
Specifically, section 18-3-405 (1) of the Colorado Revised Statutes ("C.R.S.") provides:
"Any actor who knowingly subjects another not his or her spouse to any sexual contact commits sexual assault on a child if the victim is less than fifteen years of age and the actor is at least four years older than the victim."
“Sexual contact” means the knowing touching of the victim's intimate parts by the actor, or of the actor's intimate parts by the victim, or the knowing touching of the clothing covering the immediate area of the victim's or actor's intimate parts if that sexual contact is for the purposes of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse.1
“Intimate parts” means the external genitalia or the perineum or the anus or the buttocks or the pubes or the breast of any person.2
If at the time of the offense the accused occupied a position of trust with respect to the child, it is the more serious crime of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, 18-3-405.3 C.R.S.
You occupy a position of trust with respect to a child if:
- The child is under the age of 18, and
- You are responsible in any way and for any length of time for the child's health, education, welfare and/or supervision.
Sexual assault on a child is normally a Colorado class 4 felony. Penalties include:
- 2-6 years in prison, and/or
- A fine of $2,000-$500,000.
However, sexual assault on a child becomes a Colorado class 3 felony -- as well as a Colorado violent crime -- if, in order to accomplish or facilitate the sexual contact:
- You use force;
- You threaten imminent death, serious bodily injury, extreme pain, or kidnapping against the victim or another person, and the victim believes you have the present ability to execute the threat;
- You threaten to cause future death, serious bodily injury, extreme pain, or kidnapping against the victim or another person, and the victim believes you will execute the threat; or
- You commit the offense as a part of a pattern of sexual abuse.
If any of these conditions are present, consequences of Colorado sexual assault on a child increase to:
- 4-12 years in prison, and/or
- A fine of $3,000-$750,000.
And the prison sentence increases to 8 years - life in prison if
- You actually use, possess or threaten the use of, a deadly weapon; or
- You cause serious bodily injury or death to any other person (other than an accomplice).
Also see our article about sentencing sex offenders.
In addition, if the sexual contact is part of a pattern of sexual abuse, there is no statute of limitations on the crime. This means that you can be prosecuted for it at any time, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.
If you are convicted of sexual assault of a child under 18-3-405 C.R.S., you will be required to register as a sex offender with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation's sex offender registry.
Failure to register as a sex offender is a Colorado class 6 felony. Penalties for failing to register can include:
- 1 – 1 ½ years in jail, and/or
- A fine of $1,000-$100,000.
The main defense to a charge of sexual assault on a child is that no contact occurred. Often, however, it is the child's word against the accused. The best Colorado criminal defense attorneys will, therefore:
- Subpoena the accuser's social networking accounts, email records, and school, counseling, and medical records;
- Interview the child's friends, family, schoolmates and social media contacts; and
- Run a thorough background check on the accuser and any alleged witnesses.
If the child -- or an adult in his or her life -- has an ulterior motive for accusing you, we will uncover it.
As experienced Denver sex crimes attorney Michael Becker3 explains:
“Innocent people are often wrongfully accused of sexually assaulting a child. Sometimes this happen because parents have frightened their children into believing any touching is wrong. But it can also occur when people use an impressionable child as a weapon in a personal vendetta. This is why retaining an experienced Colorado sex crimes lawyer as soon as a possible is a must.”
Other defenses that often apply in cases of alleged sex crimes against children include:
- The touching was not of an intimate part,
- The touching was accidental, or
- The touching was not for the purpose of arousal or gratification – for instance, you were checking for an injury or trying to tag the child “out” during a game of touch football.
Call us for help…
If you or someone you know has been accused of a Colorado sex crime, we invite you to contact us for a free and confidential consultation.
Don't let a false accusation or innocent contact get you labeled a sex offender. Simply fill out the form on this page and one of our caring and experienced Colorado sex crime defense lawyers will respond to you quickly. Or, if you prefer, call us at our centrally located Denver home office:
Colorado Legal Defense Group
1400 16th Street
16 Market Square
Denver CO 80202
- 18-3-401 (4) C.R.S.
- 18-3-401 (2) C.R.S.
- Michael Becker is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers who has been named to several prestigious "best of" attorney shortlists. He is admitted to practice in both Colorado and Nevada.