Statutory rape laws are designed to protect minors from sexual predators.
These laws assume that minors cannot consent to sex. So, statutory rape laws criminally penalize people who have consensual sex with children.
However, these laws sometimes unfairly target teens who are engaged in consensual sexual relationships. For that reason, many states have enacted Romeo and Juliet laws. Romeo and Juliet law in Colorado protects teens who have consensual sex.
Romeo and Juliet laws are named after the famous Shakespeare characters, Romeo and Juliet. In the text of that story, Shakespeare reveals that Juliet is only 13. Readers assume her love interest, Romeo, is older, raising questions about statutory rape.
Statutory Rape Law in Colorado
The Colorado age of consent is 17. That means that anyone under age 17 cannot consent to sex. A person who has sex with a minor faces statutory rape charges even if the child consented to sex. (Colorado Revised Statutes § 18-3-402).
A person four years older than a child under 15, who has sex with the child, faces the following penalties:
- Prison sentence of 2 to 8 years
- Fines up to $500,000
- Registration as a sex offender
A person ten years older than a minor aged 15 or 16, who has sex with the child, faces the following penalties:
- Jail sentence of 6 to 24 months
- Fines up to $5,000
- Registration as a sex offender upon the second misdemeanor offense
A person four years older than a minor under 15, who sexually touches the child without penetration, faces the following penalties:
- Prison sentence of 2 to 6 years
- Fines up to $500,000
Keep in mind that these penalties can potentially be reduced with the help of a criminal defense lawyer.
Romeo and Juliet Statutory Rape Exceptions
However, Colorado law applies some exceptions to these statutory rape laws. Romeo and Juliet laws make it legal for teens in these categories to have sex.
- A teen under age 15 can consent to sex with anyone less than four years older. For example, it is legal for a 14-year-old and 16-year-old to have consensual sex.
- A 15-year-old or 16-year-old can consent to sex with someone less than ten years older. For example, a 15-year-old can legally consent to sex with a 24-year-old.
Romeo and Juliet laws in Colorado only apply to consensual sex acts. If a minor is sexually assaulted, forcible rape laws apply. If the act does not include sexual penetration, the offender could face charges under assault, battery, enticement, or molestation laws.
Get Legal Advice for Statutory Rape Charges
If you’ve been charged with statutory rape, you need an excellent criminal defense attorney. This charge brings harsh penalties, including prison time and sex offender status, that can impact your job and housing prospects.
You should fight statutory rape charges using all available defenses, like Romeo and Juliet laws.
Call Miller Leonard today for a complimentary consultation. As a criminal attorney, Miller has handled thousands of criminal cases.
Miller worked for years as a prosecutor, so he knows how to effectively fight criminal charges. He will listen to your story and let you know what legal defenses are available. Miller knows that your freedom and reputation depend on excellent legal strategy, and he’s ready to deliver.