Colorado’s Age of Consent
The age of consent is 17 years old in Colorado—meaning only those over the age of 17 can legally consent to sexual intercourse.
Children under the age of consent typically don’t have the maturity to understand the repercussions of sexual intercourse fully. The state of Colorado has legislation regarding the age of consent in place to protect young individuals from sexual predators and consequences such as:
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Social stigmas surrounding premature sexual activity
What Does Age of Consent Mean?
The age of consent is the age at which a person has the legal competence to consent to sexual acts. Sexual activity with someone below the age of consent can never be consensual—whether that person verbally consents or not— and may be considered statutory rape or sexual abuse.
Colorado’s Romeo & Juliet Law in Colorado
The “Romeo and Juliet law” or “close-in-age exemption” in Colorado refers to statute §18-3-402, C.R.S.
According to this law, minors who are under the age of 14 can give consent to sexual acts, provided that the age difference between the minor and the actor is four years or less. The law also states that a person under the age of consent, but over the age of 14 can engage in sexual acts with a person who is ten years older.
For example, according to the Romeo and Juliet Law, a 15-year old can have consensual sex with a 23-year old, but a 16-year old can’t consent to sex with a 27-year old. A 14-year old can also give consent to a 16-year old, as the age difference is no more than four years.
What are the Penalties for Violations?
If a person violates Colorado’s age of consent laws, they may be charged with a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the:
- Respective ages of the offender and the minor
- The surrounding circumstances
If a person has sexual intercourse with a person who is more than four years younger than them and 14 years old or younger, the offender is guilty of a Class 4 felony in terms of Section 18-3-402(1)(d), C.R.S.
If the minor is 15 or 16 years old and the offender is at least ten years older than the minor, the offender is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor in terms of Section 18-3-402(1)(e), C.R.S.
If the offender is in a position of trust, for example, a teacher or family member, and they have sexual intercourse with a minor who is 14 or younger, the offender is guilty of a class 3 felony under Section 18-3-405.3, C.R.S.
However, if the minor is 15 or 16, the offender is guilty of a Class 4 felony under the same act.
Arranging a meeting with a child under the age of 15 with the intent of committing sexual acts with them is a Class 4 felony. Internet luring a child under the age of 15 is a Class 5 felony.
Common Questions about Consent Laws
Does It Matter If the Underage Person Wanted to Have Sex?
In many cases, a defendant may argue that the minor consented to, or initiated the sexual encounter. However, according to Colorado’s state law, consent from a person younger than 17 is not legally valid, and the law considers the sexual contact to be without consent.
Even if a minor verbally expresses that they want to have sex and take active steps to facilitate a sexual encounter, it doesn’t matter, as the law doesn’t consider the consent to be valid.
The Underage Person Lied About Their Age. Can I Still be Arrested?
Underage persons are not always truthful about how old they are. However, the fact that a minor lied about his or her age is no defense, and you may still be arrested if you engaged or attempted to engage in sexual acts.
Are Married Couples Exempt from Consent Laws?
In Colorado, you must be 18 years of age or older to get married. There are, however, two exceptions to this rule:
- A person who is 16 or 17 years old can get married with the consent of both parents or his or her legal guardian.
- A person who is under the age of 16 can get married with judicial approval, as well as consent from both parents or his or her legal guardian.
A person who is 16 years old or younger, and who is legally married, can consent to sexual intercourse with his or her spouse, even if the age difference is more than ten years.
What is Statutory Rape?
Sexual intercourse with someone who is not old enough to give legal consent constitutes statutory rape. CRS 18-3-403 gives the definition of sexual assault, forcible rape, and statutory rape in Colorado as sexual intrusion or sexual penetration on a victim without consent.
If a person who is 16 years old or younger gives consent, the consent is not legally valid, and the sexual act meets all three requirements for statutory rape.
What is Sexual Assault on a Child?
The elements of sexual assault on a child include any form of sexual contact with a person who is 14 years old or younger if the age difference between offender and victim is four years or more.
Sexual assault on a child is less severe than statutory rape, but the offender may still face prosecution and serious criminal penalties.
Should I Hire a Lawyer?
If you are accused of statutory rape, sexual assault on a child, or any other related sex crimes, you have several defenses at your disposal. For example, you can prove that the accuser was of age to consent and did consent to the sexual encounter. You can also show that there was no sexual contact between you and the accuser.
If you are facing any of the above charges, Anaya-McKedy, P.C., can provide you with professional legal assistance, advice, and defense. Contact us today at 719-259-5516 to schedule an initial consultation.