Statutory Rape: Colorado Criminal Defense Law and Tactics
Statutory Rape, as a misdemeanor in Colorado occurs if the child is between the ages of 15 and 17 and the accused is 10 years older than the victim. The more serious felony level crime – which could be called Sexual Assault On A Child occurs if the child is under the age of 15. This crime is based on the notion that a sexual act in which the victim is not recognized under the law as being old enough to manifest consent to a sexual act.
Criminal laws deal with the legality of sexual acts. Statutory rape laws assume that all sexual activities involving individuals below a certain age are coercive. This is true even if both parties believe their participation is voluntary. Generally, statutory rape laws define the age below which an individual is legally incapable of consenting to sexual activity.
To complicate matters, few states use the term “statutory rape” in their criminal codes. More often, a state’s code will address legality of different sexual activities involving minors (e.g., sexual contact versus penetration). Sometimes it is difficult to identify the applicable laws because they are often embedded in the section of the code dealing with other sexual offenses (e.g., sexual assault, forcible rape).Some Terms to Understand in This Area
- Age of consent. This is the age at which an individual can legally consent to sexual intercourse under any circumstances;
- Minimum age of victim. This is the age below which an individual cannot consent to sexual intercourse under any circumstances;
- Age differential. If the victim is above the minimum age and below the age of consent, the age differential is the maximum difference in age between the victim and the defendant where an individual can legally consent to sexual intercourse; and
- Minimum age of defendant in order to prosecute. This is the age below which an individual cannot be prosecuted for engaging in sexual activities with minors. The table notes those states in which this law only applies when the victim is above a certain age.
The Importance is that even if the victim gives actual consent to the act of sex, the law maintains that when the victim is under the “age of consent” (15 Colorado and in most states), the law regards the victim as not old enough to consent to sex. Therefore, aggressive and thorough preparation and defense is essential with your lawyer and a defense team able to mount the proper defense.
Furthermore, if the victim lies about his or her age and the defendant is not aware of their actual age, this is not a defense to the act of sex with a minor under Colorado Law.
Statutory Rape charges are common in our society today. There is a nationwide obsession and crackdown on perceived sexual predators spearheaded by the news media. These allegations can arise from a teenager angry with a step-parent, a student claiming an improper relationship with a teacher or a college age boy having sex with a high school age girlfriend.
A statutory rape conviction can follow you for the rest of your life. If convicted, you can face a lifetime registration as a sex offender and severe criminal penalties.Defenses
Statutory Rape charges generally pit the word of the accused against the word of the victim. Do not be tempted to plead guilty early in these cases. Instead, you should plan a strong defense that can overwhelm the prosecution.
Physical evidence may be available immediately after the alleged act. This evidence can be used in your defense.
Forcible Sexual Assault defense is different from other areas of criminal law and requires very specific techniques and experience. An effective defense team often employs psychologists, medical experts, private investigators and an attorney with the expertise to use these tools in the most effective manner.
One defense strategy is to deny that the alleged sexual act occurred in the first place or that the sexual act did not involve the defendant. DNA and other forensic evidence may be used to support this defense.Mandatory Reporters
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Colorado identifies certain individuals who are required to notify the authorities of suspected abuse. Although it varies by state, mandated reporters are typically individuals who encounter children through their professional capacity. Common professions include: physical and mental health providers, teachers, child care workers, legal professionals (e.g., judges, magistrates, attorneys, law enforcement officers), clergy members, and employees of state agencies that deal with children and families.
In terms of physical and/or mental health providers (e.g., physicians, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, dentists, surgeons, osteopaths), statutes often make specific reference to providers who treat adolescents who are pregnant or infected with sexually transmitted diseases.Summary of Colorado Statutory Rape and Mandatory Reporters Law Statutory Rape—Criminal Offenses – Colorado Statutes, §18-3-402
A child under 15 years of age cannot consent to sexual acts in cases where the other person is 4 or more years older than the victim. Individuals who are at least 15 years of age but less than 17 years of age can only consent to sexual acts if the other person is less than 10 years older than the victim. Colorado Statutes, §18-3-402Definition of Offenses Offense Definition Sexual assault – Colorado Statutes, §18-3-402
Sexual intrusion – (Sexual intrusion is defined as: any intrusion, however slight, by any object or any part of a person’s body, except the mouth, tongue, or penis, into the genital or anal opening of another person’s body if that sexual intrusion can reasonably be construed as being for the purposes of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse. Colorado Statutes, §18-3-401). Colorado Statutes, §18-3-402
… or sexual penetration (sexual penetration is defined as: sexual intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, analingus, or anal intercourse. Emission need not be proved as an element of any sexual penetration. Any penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the crime. Colorado Statutes, §18-3-401), with someone less than 15 years of age where the defendant is at least 4 years older than the victim.
Sexual intrusion or sexual penetration with someone at least 15 years of age and less than 17 years of age where the defendant is at least 10 years older than the victim.Sexual assault on a child – Colorado Statutes, §18-3-405
Sexual contact (Sexual contact is defined as: 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. Colorado Statutes, §18-3-401)… with someone less than 15 years of age where the defendant is at least 4 years older than the victim.
Note: These crimes are only applicable in cases where the defendant is not the victim’s spouse.Colorado Child Abuse Reporting Requirements Inclusion of Statutory Rape in Reporting Requirements
Mandated reporters are required to report all incidences of child abuse, including unlawful sexual behavior, (the definition of abuse includes unlawful sexual behavior. Colorado Statutes, §19-1-103) to the proper authorities. Colorado Statutes, §19-3-304. The definition of unlawful sexual behavior includes the crimes listed in the previous section. Colorado Statutes, §16-22-102
The definition of abuse does not include any provisions that indicate that it applies only to parents, guardians, or custodians of the child in question.Mandatory Reporters
Mandated reporters include: physical and mental health providers; members of the clergy; (clergy members are not required to make reports if the suspicion is based on information obtained in confidence as part of the clergy member’s religious duties) school employees; social workers; child care workers; peace officers; and victims advocates. Colorado Statutes, §19-3-304Who to Report to
Mandated reporters must immediately report cases of suspected child abuse to the county Department of Social Services or local law enforcement agency. If the report is not made in writing, it must be promptly followed by a written report. Colorado Statutes, §19-3-307Colorado State Response
Any county Department of Social Services receiving reports of abuse must immediately transmit a copy to the district attorney’s office and local law enforcement. Additionally, the county Department must submit a report to the state Department of Social Services within 60 days of receiving a report if the report is confirmed. Colorado Statutes, §19-3-307.