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Understanding a Statutory Rape Charge

By stladmin on March 3, 2021

Wyoming has strict sexual assault laws, and violating them can lead to years in state prison, hefty fines, and even having to register as a sex offender. One such charge is statutory rape, which many defendants face because they do not know Wyoming’s age-of-consent laws or did not know the age of their partner before doing the deed.

No matter what situation you are in, you need to work with a skilled trial attorney who can prepare a strong defense.

What Is Statutory Rape?

Statutory rape is a sexual assault crime. It is charged against adult defendants who are accused of performing sexual acts with a minor, or someone who is legally under the “age of majority.” In Wyoming, the age of consent is 17 years old, and anyone younger than that is considered a legal minor. If someone 17 or older has sex with someone younger than 17, then he or she can be charged with statutory rape.

Types of Charges You Can Face

Statutory rape is considered a form of child sexual abuse and can result in serious charges based on the age of the victim. Sexual abuse is always charged as a felony, and if you are convicted of such, you have to register as a sex offender. In Wyoming, there are four charges you can face:

First-Degree Sexual Abuse: This is the most serious statutory rape charge you can face. If convicted, you face up to 50 years in prison if you are younger than 21. If you are 21 or older, you serve at least 25 years minimum and up to 50 years maximum in prison. It is charged when:

  • The defendant is 16 or older; the alleged victim is 12 or younger; the crime involved penetration.
  • The defendant is 18 or older; the defendant is the alleged victim’s legal guardian or parent; the alleged victim is younger than 18; the crime involved penetration.
  • The defendant is 18 or older; the defendant has authority over the victim (a teacher, boss, or police officer); the alleged victim is younger than 16; the crime involved penetration.

Second-Degree Sexual Abuse: Second-degree statutory rape can result in up to 20 years in prison. It is charged when:

  • The defendant is 17 or older; the alleged victim is 13, 14, or 15; the crime involved penetration.
  • The defendant is 16 or older; the alleged victim is 12 or younger; the crime involved inappropriate touching or groping but no penetration.
  • The defendant is 18 or older; the defendant is the alleged victim’s legal guardian or parent; the alleged victim is younger than 18; the crime involved inappropriate touching or groping but no penetration.
  • The defendant is 18 or older; the defendant has authority over the victim (a teacher, boss, or police officer); the alleged victim is younger than 16; the crime involved inappropriate touching or groping but no penetration.

Third-Degree Sexual Abuse: The maximum sentence for third-degree statutory rape is 15 years in prison. It is charged when:

  • The defendant is 17 or older; the alleged victim is 13, 14, or 15; there is at least a four-year age difference; the crime involved penetration.
  • The defendant is 20 or older; the alleged victim is 16 or 17; there is at least a four-year age difference; the defendant has authority over the victim (a teacher, boss, or police officer); the crime involved penetration.
  • The defendant is 17 or older; the alleged victim is younger than 17; there is at least a four-year age difference; the crime involved sexual contact.
  • The defendant is 16 or older; the alleged victim is 12 or older; there is at least a three-year age difference; the crime involved penetration.

Fourth-Degree Sexual Abuse: This is the lightest charge you can face, and it comes with up to five years in prison. It is charged when:

  • The defendant is 15 or younger; the alleged victim is 12 or younger; there is at least a three- year age difference; the crime involved inappropriate touching or groping but no penetration.
  • The defendant is 20 or older; the alleged victim is younger than 18; there is at least a four-year age difference; the defendant has authority over the victim (a teacher, boss, or police officer); the crime involved inappropriate touching or groping but no penetration.

Defending Your Future

Given how complex Wyoming’s statutory rape charges are, you are likely very confused about what charges you are facing and how to defend yourself. Your best option is to talk to a Gillette criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. At Steven Titus & Associates, P.C., we have years of experience defending Campbell County residents against sexual assault charges and have an excellent track record. We can use several different defenses to get your charges reduced or dropped, including:

Wyoming’s Romeo and Juliet Laws: The state of Wyoming has a Romeo and Juliet exception. This defense typically applies to high school couples where the defendant is a legal adult and the alleged victim is less than four years younger. For example, if a couple started dating in high school and one of them turned 18 while the other was 17, the Romeo and Juliet exception would apply if they had sex.

Mistake of Age: In many cases, defendants are not aware that the alleged victim was under the age of consent. If a defendant reasonably believed that he was having sexual contact with a legal adult, then he cannot be charged if the alleged victim lied about her age or did not provide it. This defense only applies when a regular person would assume that the alleged victim is an adult. For example, if the alleged victim is between 12 and 14 and looks it, then this defense would not apply.

To get started on your case, call our office at (307) 257-7800 to schedule a free case evaluation.

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