Protecting children is a law enforcement priority, and it’s the reason for Missouri’s statutory rape laws, which presume that minors cannot consent to sexual activity. If you’re accused of statutory rape in Missouri, you must speak to a Jefferson County criminal defense attorney at once.
What is Missouri’s definition of statutory rape? What is the age of legal consent in Missouri? How can you defend yourself against a statutory rape charge? And what are the penalties for anyone who is convicted of statutory rape or child molestation in this state?
If you’ll continue reading, these questions will be answered in this brief discussion of the statutory rape laws in Missouri, and you will also learn how to find the legal help that you’ll need if you are charged with a sex crime that involves a minor.
What Are Missouri’s Statutory Rape Laws?
The age of consent in Missouri is 17 years old. This is the age at which someone is legally considered old enough to consent to sexual activity. However, in a statutory rape case, the determining factor is whether or not the victim is a minor. Consent isn’t the issue.
First-degree statutory rape or sodomy is the charge when anyone, without regard to age, engages in sexual intercourse or sodomy with a minor under the age of 14. First-degree statutory rape and sodomy are punishable upon conviction by 5 years to life in prison – or 10 years to life if the child is under age 12.
Statutory rape or sodomy in the second degree is the charge when someone 21 years old or older engages in sexual intercourse or sodomy with a minor below age 17. Statutory rape and sodomy in the second degree are Class D felonies, punishable upon conviction with up to 7 years in prison and a fine of no more than $10,000.
What Other Missouri Laws Address Sex Crimes Involving Minors?
It’s a crime in Missouri to ask or invite a minor under the age of 15 to engage in any type of sexual behavior or to lie about your age online to facilitate sexual behavior with a minor.
An adult 21 or older who texts a child to solicit sexual activity may be charged with child enticement, even when nothing sexual actually occurs. Attempting to entice a child is a Class D felony.
Enticement of a child is a Class C felony (punishable upon conviction with 3 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000), unless the defendant has a previous enticement conviction, in which case it’s a Class B felony (punishable upon conviction with 5 to 15 years in prison).
Additionally, anyone in Missouri who is convicted of a sex crime that involves a minor must register as a sex offender. Registered sex offenders must provide their name, address, and photograph to a local police agency, and that information is then made accessible to the public.
What Is Child Molestation in Missouri?
In Missouri, an adult engaging in sexual behavior short of sodomy or intercourse with a minor under 17 has committed child molestation. Child molestation in the first degree is charged if the child is under 14 and the defendant injures the child, brandishes a weapon, or is related to the child.
Child molestation in the second degree is the charge whenever a child is below 12 years of age or if the child is below 17 and the defendant is more than 4 years older than the child, or if the defendant injures the child, brandishes a weapon, or is related to the child.
Child molestation in the third degree is the charge when sexual behavior occurs between a child below age 14 and a defendant of any age. Child molestation in the fourth degree is the charge when sexual behavior occurs between a child under 17 and a defendant more than 4 years older.
What Are the Penalties for a Child Molestation Conviction?
Listed here are the penalties for a child molestation conviction:
- Child molestation in the first degree is a Class A felony. A conviction may be penalized with 10 years to life in prison. When the victim is below age 12, the offender will not qualify for parole or probation.
- Child molestation in the second degree is a Class B felony. A conviction may be penalized with 5 to 15 years in prison.
- Child molestation in the third degree is a Class C felony. A conviction may be penalized with 3 to 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000. If compulsion or force was used, the crime is a Class B felony.
- Child molestation in the fourth degree is a Class E felony. A conviction may be penalized with up to 4 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
How Can You Fight a Statutory Rape or Child Molestation Charge?
If you are charged with statutory rape in Missouri, you must contact a Missouri sex crimes attorney as quickly as possible. Exercise your right to remain silent until you can speak to your attorney, because anything you say to the police can be used against you.
The possible defenses against a charge of statutory rape include the conventional defenses available to all defendants in all criminal proceedings:
- Another person did the crime, and the defendant is a victim of misidentification.
- The crime never happened and the incident was fabricated by the purported victim.
- It’s all simply a huge misunderstanding.
Defendants charged with statutory rape typically insist that they could not know that their victim was not old enough to consent. In Missouri, mistaking a minor’s age is not a defense to the charge of statutory rape or sodomy in the first degree of a minor below age 14.
However, mistaking someone’s age may be offered as a legal defense to a charge of statutory rape or sodomy in the second degree of a child age 14 or older if the defendant reasonably believed that the child was 17 years of age or older.
What Happens If Both Persons Are Minors?
Some states have what are known as “Romeo and Juliet” exemptions to protect persons under 21 from being charged with statutory rape as a result of consensual sexual activity with someone in the same age group.
Missouri has a partial “Romeo and Juliet” exception for consensual sex with or between young adults and minors who are no more than 4 years apart in age.
However, in Missouri, it is always against the law to engage in sexual conduct with someone who is below age 14, no matter the defendant’s age, and a criminal conviction for sexual conduct with someone under age 14 can send a defendant to prison for life in this state.
What Else Should You Know?
The laws that protect children are aggressively enforced in Missouri. When someone is convicted of statutory rape or child molestation, that offender should expect no leniency from the court.
If you are charged with statutory rape, enticement, or child molestation, you’ll need the advice and services of the right Jefferson County criminal defense attorney – someone who has had success defending statutory rape defendants and who knows how to represent you effectively.