Sexual assault is a category of crimes that involve performing sexual activities with another person without their consent. Each state has their own consent laws. In recent years, we have seen a greater awareness being brought to the topic of consent, in large part due to media coverage of major sexual assault cases and the #metoo movement.
With awareness and media coverage also comes a fair share of false information and misrepresentation of information provided.
If you are in a situation where you are facing charges of sexual assault, it is important that you reach out to a Missouri Sex Assault Attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case.
With the assistance of an experienced criminal attorney, you can work towards building a strategic defense against the charges you are facing and take steps to protect your freedom and your future. Here is what you need to know about legal consent and its role in cases of sexual assault in Missouri.
The Role of Consent in Criminal Cases
The role of consent in criminal sexual assault cases is crucial, but murky. In recent years, we have seen a greater awareness being brought to the subject of consent, and how it is defined from both a legal and cultural standpoint. The issue with consent is that outside of legal definitions, consent often involves assumptions, which are sometimes incorrect.
Obviously, there are cases when a perpetrator commits sexual assault with malicious intentions to harm and engage another person in sexual activity without their consent. These cases are typically cut and dry. Forced or coerced sexual activity is sexual assault, pure and simple.
What becomes less clear is the assumed grey area that exists between a definite “yes” and a definite “no.” Further complicating is the fact that any person has the right to revoke consent at any point during sexual activity.
However, most people do not come right out and ask for consent every step of the way. It is often implied based upon mutual actions and words. When there is a misunderstanding, misinterpretation, or sheer lack of ability to read into a sexual partner’s cues, the role of consent in criminal cases becomes more subjective.
Consent Defined in Cases of Sexual Assault
Because consent is such a central element of any sexual assault case, it is very important to have consent defined, at least on a very basic level.
In the most general terms, consent is a mutual agreement to participate in sexual activity. It is important to understand that consent cannot be assumed on current or past actions of either party. This holds true for couples in a relationship, including marriage. Even within the confines of marriage, sexual activity without consent is considered rape in all 50 states.
Without consent, any sexual activity can be considered sexual assault. This includes consensual acts that involve penetration, as well as acts that involve touching someone intimately. It is important to just ask to avoid what could turn into a lengthy and stressful legal situation.
Under Missouri law, consent is a defense to sex offenses so long as the alleged victim is 14 years old or older. However, Missouri law does not define consent. Missouri law does define situations where an individual is not viewed as being legally capable of giving consent. This includes people under the “Age of Consent.”
Missouri’s Age of Consent is 17
The age of consent is a factor in many sexually-related cases. The phrase “age of consent” typically refers to the age at which a person is legally regarded as mature enough to make decisions about their own sexual activity.
In the United States, the age of consent is decided at the state level, so the thresholds differ from state to state. Under Missouri law, the age of consent is 17 years old. This is the age at which an individual is legally considered old enough to consent to sexual activity.
In the state of Missouri, people 16 or under are not able to consent to sexual activity. An adult participating in sexual activity with someone 16 or under may be prosecuted for statutory rape.
In Missouri, statutory rape is committed when an individual has consensual intercourse with a person under the age of 17. The severity of the criminal charge (misdemeanor, felony, etc) for breaking the age of consent laws can depend on the acts committed and the relative ages of the victim and the perpetrator.
Missouri’s Romeo and Juliet Law
Under Missouri law, if an individual is under the age of 21, they may have sexual intercourse with someone who is 14 years old or older. After an individual becomes 21 or older, they cannot have sexual intercourse with an individual under the age of 17. For example, a 21 year old who engages in consensual sexual acts with a 17 year old could not be charged with a crime, nor could a 20 year old and a 16 year old, and so on.
Hire an Attorney Skilled in Defending Against Sex Crimes Accusations
Irrespective of whether it is legal or not, it is never a good idea to test the waters with a statutory rape charge because these are serious charges that carry serious penalties.
Potential consequences for the crime can range from prison to probation and/or registering as a sex offender. Typically, more violent offenses and drastic gaps in ages lead to more serious penalties. However, any violation of the age of consent law can be quite serious. Occasionally, courts are lenient in cases where both parties are minors or they are close in age.
Sex crimes are some of the most serious criminal charges you can face. Crimes like rape, child molestation, or possession or distribution of child pornography carry harsh penalties. If any activity crossed state lines, even the use of a cell phone or the internet, federal charges may be involved. If found guilty, you can face prison terms with lengthy minimum sentences, even after plea bargaining. Whether you go to prison or not, there is a good chance you will have to register as a sex offender.
A sex crime charge or accusation puts your reputation in serious jeopardy. A sex crime conviction can ruin your life and your family member’s lives. The first line of defense is consulting with an attorney skilled in defending against sex crime allegations.
Our team of highly regarded criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience handling hundreds of bench and jury trials for serious criminal charges. We are prepared to fight for you and help you avoid the consequences of a sex crime conviction.