In Indiana, a person can be convicted of statutory rape (also called child molestation, sexual misconduct, or child seduction) by engaging in sexual activity, even consensual sexual activity, with a child.
For more information on statutory rape, see Statutory Rape Laws and Penalties.
Under Indiana’s laws, a person who engages in any sex act with a child under the age of 14 commits the crime of child molestation.
(Ind. Code Ann. § 35-42-4-3.)
Sexual Misconduct With a Child
A person commits the crime of sexual misconduct in Indiana by engaging in any sexual conduct with a child over the age of 14 but under the age of 16.
Sexual misconduct is punished more severely if:
- the defendant is over the age of 21
- the sexual conduct includes sexual intercourse, penetration, or oral or anal sex, or
- the defendant uses force or violence or engages in sexual conduct without the child’s consent.
(Ind. Code Ann. § 35-42-4-9.)
Engaging in any sexual activity with a person age 16 or older by force or without the other person’s consent can also result in criminal charges.
While anyone can commit child molestation or sexual misconduct, only a person over the age of 18 in a position of supervision or trust over a child can commit the crime of child seduction. A person who engages in any sexual activity with a child over the age of 16 but under the age of 18 commits child seduction where the defendant is:
- the child’s guardian, adoptive parent, adoptive grandparent, or stepparent
- the child’s teacher or an employee of the child’s school, or
- a military recruiter who is attempting to enlist the child.
(Ind. Code Ann. § 35-42-4-7.)
For example, a teacher who sleeps with a 17-year-old student is guilty of child seduction.
People in Indiana who lure or try to lure children to engage in sexual contact can face charges for and be convicted of child enticement, even if no sexual contact ever takes place.
For more information on this crime, see Child Enticement Laws in Indiana.
Indiana law provides important defense to statutory rape.
Mistake as to the child’s age
In many states, a defendant's mistaken belief as to a child's age is not a defense to a statutory rape. However, in Indiana, it is a defense any sex crime that:
- the defendant mistakenly believed the child to be of a particular age
- the defendant’s belief was reasonable (supported by the circumstances), and
- if the child were that age, the conduct at issue would not be criminal.
For example, if the child said that he or she was 17 years old, and other people told the defendant that the child was 17 years old, and the child was friendly with other 17 and 18-year-old children, then a defendant might be able to avoid a conviction for sexual misconduct.
This defense does not apply in cases of sexual misconduct by force or violence, because that conduct is criminal no matter what the victim's age.
(Ind. Code Ann. §§ 35-41-3-7, 35-42-4-9; Lechner v. State, 715 N.E.2d 1285 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999).)
In Indiana, it is a defense to a charge of sexual misconduct (except by force or violence) that the child and the defendant are or were married. (Ind. Code Ann. § 35-42-4-9.) This defense is a remnant of the marital rape defense.
For more information on the marital rape exemption, see Indiana Marital Rape Laws.
“Romeo and Juliet” defense
Named after Shakespeare’s famous young lovers, “Romeo and Juliet” defenses protect young people from criminal charges for engaging in consensual sex with others close to their own age. In Indiana, it is a defense to a charge of sexual misconduct (except by force or violence) that:
- the defendant is under the age of 21 and not more than four years older than the victim, and
- the defendant and the victim were in an ongoing personal relationship.
(Ind. Code Ann. § 35-42-4-9.)
For example, an 18-year-old who is romantically involved with a 15-year-old could assert this defense and hope to avoid criminal charges or conviction.
Sexual misconduct by force or violence or without the child’s consent is a Class A or B felony, punishable by six to 50 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.
Sexual misconduct that involves intercourse, penetration, or oral or anal sex is a Class B felony (punishable by six to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000) if the defendant is over the age of 21; and a Class C felony (punishable by two to eight years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000) if the defendant is under the age of 21.
Sexual misconduct short of intercourse or penetration is a Class C felony if the defendant is over the age of 21, and a Class D felony if the defendant is under the age of 21. Class D felonies are punishable by a minimum of six months in jail or as much as three years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $10,000.
Depending on the circumstances of the crime, child molestation is a Class A, B, or C felony.
Child seduction is also a Class D felony.
(Ind. Code Ann. §§ 35-42-4-3, 35-42-4-7, 35-42-4-9, 35-50-2-4, 35-50-2-5, 35-50-2-6, 35-50-2-7.)
Sex Offender Registration
People in Indiana who are convicted of child molestation and child seduction are required to register as sex offenders. People who are convicted of sexual misconduct with a child are also required to register if the crime is a Class A, B, or C felony, although the court can decide to release a defendant from the registration requirement if the crime is a Class C felony and the defendant is not more than four years older than the child.
(Ind. Code Ann. §§ 11-8-8-4.5, 11-8-8-7, 11-8-8-8, 11-8-8-19.)
Obtaining Legal Advice and Representation
If you are charged with a sex crime involving a minor, you should contact a local criminal defense attorney. Being convicted of a sex crime has serious consequences. Retaining an experienced attorney will give you the best chance of avoiding a conviction and obtaining the best possible resolution under the circumstances.