Age of Consent in Oklahoma
Oklahoma statutes state that it is illegal for an adult (someone over the age of 18) to have sex with a minor (someone under 15 years of age), even if it is consensual sex agreed to by both parties. The law in practice, however, is much more complex than age. For some less-experienced criminal defense attorneys, the complexities of sex crime cases can be a daunting task to undertake.
It is well understood that children and teenagers cannot consent to sexual intercourse in the same way that two adults can. Known as the “age of consent,” this statute protects children under the age of 16 due to differences in the mental capacity and maturity necessary for two individuals to consent to sexual intercourse.
However, this does not mean that an adult should suddenly open their dating pool to include teenagers—strict penalties and charges on the basis of statutory rape can easily carry lifelong consequences and considerable jail time and fines.
The “Romeo and Juliet” Law
Some states (including Oklahoma) have a close-in-age exemption for two consenting minors who engage in sexual intercourse. Known colloquially as Romeo and Juliet laws, two individuals over the age of 14 (but under the age of 18) can knowingly and willingly consent to sexual intercourse with one another.
For example, a 15-year-old can continue dating a 17 year old partner even after the older partner finishes high school as long as both parties are minors during the periods they are consenting to sexual intercourse.
It is worth noting that sexual intercourse with any minor under the age of 14 is always a serious crime, and a conviction can result in life imprisonment. It is always better to be safe than sorry, and sexual intercourse with any minor under the age of 18 should generally be avoided by adults even when there is a close-in-age exemption in effect.
Legal Consequences of Statutory Rape
Being convicted of statutory rape (consensual sexual intercourse with a minor over 14, but under 16) also known as second-degree rape, can carry severe penalties against the defendant. Cases of sex with minors are tried on a per se basis, meaning that the act will be charged as a crime regardless if there was malicious intent or other mitigating circumstances. You can’t argue that they consented because under Oklahoma law minors cannot give their legal consent for sexual acts.
Commonly, those charged with statutory rape will defend their actions by insisting that a minor said they were older than they actually were. In fact, this is seen as an admission of guilt and should be avoided at all costs. It’s important to understand that according to Oklahoma statutory rape laws, it is a strict liability crime, which means no malicious intent is necessary. Under state law, the crime is that the act happened at all. Another motive is not necessary to prove guilt. Consequences of a second-degree rape conviction include:
- Jail time (between 1-15 years);
- Large fines (up to $100,000); and
- Possible lifelong registration as a sex offender.
The fact remains true—no crime is worth the lifelong repercussions that follow it and the damage it can have on both the victim and the defendants’ lives.
Federal Laws Regarding Sexual Activity with Minors
Under federal law, the “age of consent” is the age at which a person is considered legally mature enough to sexual activity or sexual intercourse with another person. In the United States, the federal legal age of consent is 16.
Although the age of consent is 16 years old, an age differential of four years is used to determine the legality of sex between underage minors. This means that it is illegal to be involved in any type of sexual conduct with someone between the ages of 12 and 16 if the younger person is at least four years younger than the older person.
These federal laws, however, apply only to sexual acts that involve interstate travel, travel between different countries, or which occur on federal property.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
When faced with a criminal charge of statutory rape, the odds may feel stacked against you. It is your word against the word of a minor, who may elicit sympathy on the basis of age alone. But simply “not knowing their age” is not a valid defense, as discussed previously. If you face these types of charges you will need the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer to represent your best interests.
For expert insight and legal advice regarding a sex crime case or to discuss the details of your upcoming court date, contact us today to schedule a confidential, free consultation.