Seventeen is the age of consent in Missouri. Adults who engage in sexual activity with children under the age of consent can be prosecuted and convicted of statutory rape, statutory sodomy, or child molestation. It is also a crime in Missouri for a teacher or school employee to engage in sexual contact with a student.
For more information on statutory rape, see Statutory Rape Laws, Charges, and Punishments.
In all statutory rape cases, the determinative fact is whether the victim is underage. Consent is not an issue. Of course, people who commit sex acts against others of any age without their consent may be convicted of rape, sexual battery, or assault.
Statutory Rape and Sodomy
In Missouri, a person commits the crime of second degree statutory rape by engaging in sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 17 when the defendant is over the age of 21. A person age 21 or older that engages in sodomy (oral or anal sex or sexual penetration) with a child under the age of 17 commits the crime of second degree statutory sodomy.
No matter what the defendant’s age, it is a crime (first degree statutory rape or sodomy) to engage in sexual intercourse or sodomy with a child under the age of 14.
(Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 566.032, 566.034, 566.062, 566.064.)
For example, a 22-year-old who has sex with a 16-year-old could be convicted of second degree statutory rape. Any person who engages in sexual intercourse against a 13-year-old could be convicted of first degree statutory rape.
Other Sexual Activity
Under Missouri's laws, a person who engages in sexual contact short of intercourse or sodomy with a child under the age of 17 commits the crime of child molestation. The younger the child, the more severely the crime is punished. (Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 566.067, 566.068.)
Teachers and Students
In Missouri, it is also a crime to engage in any sexual contact with a public school student if the defendant is a school teacher, student teacher, employee, official, volunteer, or contractor. For example, a volunteer assistant coach who engaged in sexual activity with a student could be convicted of the crime of sexual contact with a student.
(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 566.086.)
It is also a crime under Missouri’s laws to invite or ask a child under the age of 15 (or a police officer masquerading as a child under the age of 15) to engage in sexual conduct or to misrepresent one’s age online in order to engage in sexual conduct with a child.
For more information on these crimes, see Child Enticement Laws in Missouri.
Mistake. In most states, it is not a defense to a charge of statutory rape that the defendant mistakenly believed the child to be of age. In Missouri, mistake is not a defense to a charge of first degree statutory rape or sodomy or molestation of a child under 14. However, it is a defense to a charge of second degree statutory rape or sodomy or molestation of a child over the age of 14 that the defendant believed the child to be age 17 or older, so long as the belief is reasonable. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 566.020.)
Marriage. It is a defense to a charge of statutory rape or sodomy or child molestation that the defendant and the child were married. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 566.023.)
For information about the marital rape exemption, see Missouri Marital Rape Laws.
The defendant’s age. Many states have enacted “Romeo and Juliet” exceptions, named for William Shakespeare’s young lovers, to protect young people from criminal charges as a result of consensual sexual activity with other teens. Missouri’s statutory rape and sodomy laws protect people under the age of 21 from being prosecuted for engaging in consensual sexual conduct with people who are over the age of 14 but under the age of 17.
Second degree statutory rape and sodomy are Class C felonies, punishable by up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. First degree statutory rape and sodomy are punishable by five years’ to life imprisonment, or ten years to life in prison if the child is under the age of 12.
Molestation of a child under the age of 12 is a Class A felony, punishable by ten to 30 years’ or life imprisonment and the defendant is not eligible for probation or parole. Molestation of a child under the age of 14 is a Class B felony, punishable by five to 15 years in prison. Molestation of a child over the age of 14 but under the age of 17 is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Sexual contact with a student is a Class D felony, punishable by up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
(Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 558.011, 560.011, 560.016, 566.032, 566.034, 566.062, 566.064, 566.067, 566.068, 566.086.)
Sex Offender Registration
People in Missouri who are convicted of any sex crime involving a minor must register as sex offenders. Registered sex offenders are required to provide their names, addresses, and photographs to local police, who make this information available to the public. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 589.400.)
The Value of Legal Representation
Being convicted of any crime, but especially a sex crime, can have extremely serious consequences. In addition to time in prison or jail and sex offender registration, a criminal conviction can result in a harsher sentence if you are ever convicted of another crime and, if convicted of a felony, you can lose your right to vote, own a firearm, or hold public office. A criminal conviction can also make it more difficult to obtain a job or a professional license. Only an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you successfully navigate the criminal justice system and protect your rights.