Age of consent laws exist to protect children. A child who allegedly violates these laws potentially faces criminal prosecution. However, the Colorado age of consent laws contain exemptions that could protect younger people from facing the devastating consequences of a sexual assault charge.
You will need an aggressive defense lawyer if you or your child faces allegations of sexual assault on a minor in the Denver area. You can trust our lawyers at Gerash Steiner Blanton, P.C., to protect your rights. They have decades of trial experience and are not afraid to defend you vigorously so that you have the best chance of winning your case.
What Is the Age of Consent in Colorado?
The age of consent in Colorado is 17, according to Colorado law. Historically, the law presumed that a person younger than 17 lacked the legal capacity to consent to have sex, and many states still have laws on the books that maintain that presumption. Of course, those unbending laws ignore reality, even though they exist to prevent teenage pregnancy and other consequences inherent in sexual conduct.
Therefore, Colorado enacted so-called “Romeo and Juliet” laws to protect children from criminal prosecution for having underage sex. These laws break from the traditional—and perhaps outdated—opinion that a child younger than 17 should face criminal prosecution for participating in underage sex. However, these protections apply only in certain circumstances.
What Are the Age of Consent Exceptions in Colorado Law?
Colorado’s Romeo and Juliet law, known as a “close-in-age exemption,” significantly relaxes the traditional rule. In Colorado, a child under 14 can have consensual sex with a person who is less than 4 years older than them. Accordingly, a 13-year-old could have sex with a 16-year-old without either facing the threat of prosecution.
Colorado law allows for another exception as well. A child 14 years of age or older can legally have sex with someone who is not more than 10 years older. Thus, a 25-year-old can have sex with a 15-year-old without fearing prosecution. Again, the presumption applies only if the child consents.
What Does Consent Mean?
The Colorado age of consent laws prevent prosecutors from bringing charges if the act was consensual. Therefore, failing to understand the legal concept of consent could have devastating consequences, and understanding the legal meaning of consent is vital to obeying the law.
Consent means more than mere acquiescence to sex. Consent means freely and voluntarily agreeing to engage in sexual conduct. A person can infer consent from the circumstances or receive verbal agreement from the other person.
Even though Colorado’s age of consent laws protect consenting participants, the law still offers protections to people who cannot consent in particular circumstances. In those cases, the law indicates that the alleged victim cannot consent even if the person verbally agrees to have sex.
A person cannot consent to sexual contact if the alleged victim:
- Cannot understand the nature of the conduct;
- Submits erroneously after giving consent to someone believed to be a spouse;
- Is in the custody of law enforcement, detained in a hospital, or some other institution, and the actor has supervisory or disciplinary authority over the alleged victim which the actor used to commit a sexual act;
- Submits to medical treatment, but the actor engages in treatment that has no bona fide medical purpose or in a manner inconsistent with reasonable medical practices; or
- If the victim is physically helpless, and the actor knows the person is vulnerable.
Some of these situations can be confusing in the heat of the moment, and it would be easy to make a mistake. But a mistake, however honest, could leave you facing significant legal problems. That’s why you should contact our firm as soon as possible to start an aggressive defense if the State charges you with such a sex crime.
What Could Happen if Consent Is Lacking?
Sexual conduct without consent is a crime under Colorado law and is referred to as sexual assault, sexual intrusion, or sexual penetration. These are felony charges that carry severe consequences. However, the severity of the penalty you face depends on the circumstances.
Sex Assault Punishments
Sexual assault is a class 4 felony, generally. The severity of the penalty could become more severe if the incident involves aggravating circumstances. The sentence for a class 4 felony is 2 to 6 years in prison and 3 years of mandatory parole.
A person would face a class 6 felony if the alleged victim is 15 or 16 and the alleged perpetrator is over 10 years older. This crime carries a period of imprisonment ranging from 1 year to 18 months with 1 year of parole. Notwithstanding, sexual assault is a class 3 felony if the victim is physically helpless. A person convicted of a class 3 felony faces 4 to 12 years in prison and 3 years of parole.
A class 3 felony also occurs when:
- The alleged victim’s will is overborne by physical violence or the threat of physical violence, either against the victim personally or another;
- The perpetrator threatens retaliation in the future against the victim or another, and the alleged victim reasonably believes the actor will retaliate; or
- The perpetrator used a drug, intoxicant, or other means to cause the alleged victim to submit to sex against the victim’s will.
The Colorado age of consent laws consider sexual assault to be a class 2 felony at times as well. A sexual assault is a class 2 felony if the perpetrator receives help from one or more persons to commit the crime. Some might refer to this as gang rape. A class 2 felony also occurs when the alleged victim suffers a serious bodily injury during the incident, or the perpetrator threatens the alleged victim with a deadly weapon. Class 2 felonies carry a sentence of between 8 and 24 years in prison.
Find Your Voice With Gerash Steiner Blanton
At Gerash Steiner Blanton, P.C., we believe you deserve a fearless advocate who will be your voice in the Colorado criminal justice system. We have decades of trial experience upon which we rely to fight for you. We offer free case evaluations, so you have nothing to lose by making an appointment today. Call 303-830-0630 for more information.