With recent numbers going up when it comes to unlawful sexual conduct prosecutions, people have questions concerning the Utah age of consent laws. The age of consent refers to the minimum age for which an individual is legally old enough to consent or agree to sexual activities. These kinds of sexual conduct crimes are seldom committed by strangers. Most of these allegations are against a neighbor, trusted family friend, teacher, co-worker, babysitter, or merely an acquaintance. These criminal charges can carry serious consequences in Utah so it’s important to understand the laws and penalties associated.
What is the age of consent in Utah?
In the state of Utah, the age of consent is 18 years old. The crime occurs when an adult has unlawful sexual conduct with a minor who is either 16 or 17 years of age. The sexual conduct wouldn’t be considered a crime except for the statute states that the child is too young to consent.
Romeo and Juliet Law Utah
In Utah, there is a Romeo and Juliet exemption named after the young lovers in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” play. This exemption is intended to prevent serious charges against teenagers who engage in consensual sex with others close to their own age. The Romeo and Juliet exemption are for minors who are close in age but one party is a minor. However, the defendant is fewer than 7 or 10 years older than the minor.
This means that if there was actual consent and both are within three years of age, then one could plead that as an affirmative defense. The defendant would then have to prove that the sexual conduct was completely consensual. With that said, teens who engage in consensual sexual acts can still face criminal charges for unlawful adolescent sexual activity. This is the case even if both parties involved are minors.
Mistake of Age and Statutory Rape
In the state of Utah, it’s against the law for someone over 18 years old to have sex with a minor, even if the sex is consensual. This is considered statutory rape. Even though statutory rape doesn’t require proof of assault, it’s still rape. Defendants accused of statutory rape often claim that they didn’t know their sexual partner was underage. They may even argue that the victim misrepresented his or her age as older than they were. But under most circumstances, a mistake of age is not a defense to a statutory rape charge.
If the victim was above the age of 16, (17) then a defendant can use the defense that he or she reasonably believed the minor was 18 years of age at the time the incident happened.
What is unlawful sexual conduct with a minor in Utah?
Unlawful sexual activity with a minor includes intercourse, penetration, or oral sex between a minor who is 14-15 years old and a defendant who is 18 or older. If the defendant was less than 4 years older than the minor, the offense is considered a class B misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 6 months in jail, a fine of up to $1000, or both. However, if the defendant is more than 4 years older than the minor, the offense is a third-degree felony which can be up to 5 years in prison, a hefty fine of $5000, or both.
Possible charges under Utah rape law
Statutory rape laws and penalties are determined by the ages of both the defendant and victim as well as the circumstances of the crime. Third-degree rape is a class C felony with a maximum prison sentence of up to 5 years in prison. If the minor is under 14, the charges are considered a Class B felony, or second-degree felony.
If however, the minor is 12 years old, the defendant can be charged with rape in the first degree which is the same as a Class A felony. A first-degree rape charge can also take place even if the person is 18 years or older but is incapable of consent. This could be because of physical helplessness, mental defense, or mental incapacitation.
Penalties for each law
- Rape of a child who is 13 or younger and the defendant is 18 or older is a first-degree felony and is punishable by at least 6 years (and up to life) in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
- Unlawful sexual conduct involving only touching is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison, a fine of as much as $2500, or both. Otherwise, the offense is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of $5000, or both.
- Unlawful sexual activity with a minor includes intercourse, penetration, or oral sex between a 14-15 year old minor and a
defendant who is 18 or older. If the defendant was fewer than 4 years older than the victim, it’s a class B misdemeanor. Otherwise, the offense is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of $5000, or both.
Possible defenses for a Utah rape charge
- If the mental ability to consent isn’t due to the minor’s age, meaning the person is older than 18 and has a mental defect, that person may raise a defense that they did not know of the mental condition or that the victim was mentally unable to consent.
- In a case of statutory rape or rape in the third degree, it doesn’t work as a defense for the defendant to say he didn’t know the age of the child if the victim was under 16 years of age. This can however be a defense if the victim was 17 and the defendant reasonably believed he or she was 18 or older.
- The mental capacity of the person charged with the rape can also be a defense if his or her ability to know whether or not the other party had consented to the sexual activity or not.
Criminal procedure when charged with a rape crime
The criminal process can be complex and difficult for most individuals to navigate. The average person just doesn’t understand how criminal procedure works. For this reason, it’s best to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney who can assist in your defense or mitigating circumstances.
The initial criminal process in a rape case involves proceedings where individuals are read their charges as well as their rights. The court may also determine whether or not they feel the defendant should be detained due to the danger he or she may pose to the community. This may include imposing a bond amount.
There will then be a proceeding to determine if there is enough evidence in the case to hold a trial. The State and the Defendant go through a process where all evidence gathered by the State is disclosed. This may include police reports, interviews, rape kits, witness statements, DNA kits, recordings, text messages, social media communication, and video evidence. The Defendant also discloses any evidence they may have acquired for their defense at this time.
Experts may be brought in to testify of the validity of the rape kit used during the investigation and to help determine if there was indeed consent.
Conclusion: Utah Age of Consent Laws
At Harris, Preston, and Chambers, we understand the severity of sexual consent cases and how traumatic they can be for everyone involved. Reach out to our firm today for a consultation on what our criminal defense team can do to help. Our
An experienced law firm can often negotiate with the prosecutor resulting in a reduction of penalties or a lesser charge. If you or a loved one are facing a statutory rape charge, you’ll need excellent representation to walk the path with you.
*Nothing herein constitutes legal advice. You should obtain independent legal counsel regarding your specific factual situation.