When it comes to intimate relationships with minors, the resulting sentence and legal ramifications are severe, both for the direct and collateral consequences. You can easily find yourself in a situation where life-altering charges such as “statutory rape” and “sexual abuse of a minor” are being associated with your name. Join us in today’s post as we discuss some of the reasons that you may have been arrested after engaging in consensual sexual contact.
Age of Consent Matters
According to Colorado state law, the age of consent to engage in sexual activity is 17, and extends to 18 in the event of child prostitution. What this means is that children 16 years or younger are not legally allowed to consent to any sexual activity, and any sexual activity with that minor may be charged as statutory rape. Statutory rape is the legal term used to define sexual intercourse with an individual is not legally able to consent, regardless of whether or not it was consensual.
There are a few circumstances that are exemptions to the law including a close-age clause that allows 16- and 17-year-olds to engage in consensual sex with someone who is no more than 10 years older than them, and 15-year-olds to engage in sex with people who are no more than four years older.
Sexual contact with anyone under the age of 15 is charged as sexual abuse of a minor, which is a class 3 or class 4 felony. Any conviction for a crime that is sexual in nature may have devastating effects on your future.
Under Age, Under Arrest
Arrest for sexual contact with a minor happens more often than people would like. For some alleged perpetrators, they are completely caught off guard by the charges and were unaware they were performing an illegal act. Let’s discuss some of the common reasons that you may have committed an illegal act without realizing it.
Moral Turpitude and Immigration Law
In the state of Colorado, the age of consent is 17. However, federal law describes sexual abuse of a minor, which includes statutory rape, as any offense where the victim is under the age of 18. In most cases, criminal prosecution as it relates to sexual offenses falls under state jurisdiction, where sexual contact with a 17-year-old (or any of the close-age situations described above) would be perfectly legal. However, as an immigrant, you are subject to federal law, regardless of what state you reside in. A felony of any form can be grounds for revocation of legal status and deportation. However, in the case of sexual felonies, these are considered violations of moral turpitude and are weighted heavier in the immigration review process.
State Law, Federal Law, and Dual Sovereignty
Similarly to immigrants, military service members are held to a different sovereign than regular Colorado residents. The Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) establishes the age of consent as 16, regardless of your age. Under UCMJ, there is no close-age clause and, therefore, you may be subject to punishment that includes incarceration and even a death sentence. So, what may be legal off-post in Colorado, may be punished by the military authority that holds jurisdiction.
On the flip side, what is legal on-post, such as sex with a 16-year-old, is not legal in the state of Colorado and you may end up facing civilian state charges even though you were abiding by military law.
Dual Sovereignty is a situation in which both entities — state and military — press charges for the same crime. This would be the case if you were accused of engaging in a sex act with someone who is 15 or younger. You may face statutory rape charges under UCMJ and sexual abuse of minor charges in the state court.
You Are in a Position of Authority
All the rules are thrown out if you are in a position of trust or authority over the person with which you engage in a sex act. This means that if you are the minor’s supervisor at work, in a position of a teacher, instructor, coach, counselor, or mentor, or you have another trusted relationship with the minor, you can be charged with statutory rape or sexual misconduct, regardless of age. If at any time you are responsible for the health, education, welfare, or supervision of a minor under the age of 18, sexual contact is a felony offense.
It happens all the time. (S)He said they were 18 and you later find out they were only 14. Unfortunately, Colorado is a “strict liability” state, which means that intent to commit statutory rape is irrelevant and an “I didn’t know” defense will often not work.
If you have been accused of committing a sex crime against a minor, do not face the charges alone. You need criminal defense support that you can count on to help you avoid a criminal record and a lifelong spot on the sex-offender registry. Contact the experienced legal team at Murphy and Price, LLP. We have more than a quarter-century experience defending immigrants, military service members, and Colorado residents in the Colorado Springs area. Contact us for your complimentary consultation.