In the Wyoming, it is illegal for an adult (someone 18 or older) to have sex with a minor (someone younger than 15), even if the sex is consensual. Those who break the law have committed statutory rape.
Statutory rape laws are premised on the assumption that minors are incapable of giving informed consent to sexual activities. Their incapacity is written into the statute—hence the term “statutory” rape. The age of consent can vary among states, and some states differentiate between consensual sex between minors who are close in age (for example, two teenagers of the same age), as opposed to sex between a minor and a much older adult.
Though statutory rape does not require that the prosecutor prove an assault, it is still rape. Of course, rape that does involve force or an assault is illegal in Wyoming and prosecuted as forcible rape (see Wyoming Sexual Battery Laws). Assaults of a sexual nature may also be charged under the state’s assault and battery or child molestation or enticement laws (to learn more, see Aggravated Assault Laws in Wyoming and Child Enticement in Wyoming). And for information about rape between spouses, see Wyoming Marital Rape Laws.
Statutory Rape and Penalties
Statutory rape is prosecuted under Wyoming’s sexual assault laws, and penalties depend on the age of the parties, and the type of sexual contact that occurred, as described below.
Second degree child sexual assault occurs when there is penetration (however slight) with an object or body part between a minor who is 15 or younger and a defendant who is at least four years older than the minor. This offense also includes sexual contact (sexual touching, even over clothing, without penetration) between a minor 13 or younger and a defendant who is at least 18 years old; or a minor 11 or younger when the defendant was at least four years older than the minor.
This offense incurs at least two (and up to 20) years in prison. Increased penalties may apply for a second or subsequent offense.
Third degree child sexual assault occurs when there is penetration between a minor who is 11 or younger and a defendant who is at least four years older than the minor.
This offense incurs up to 15 years in prison. Increased penalties may apply for a second or subsequent offense.
(Wy. Stat. § 6-2-304, 6-2-303.)
Sex Offender Registration
State law requires, in addition to the applicable fines and prison time, that people convicted of certain sexual crimes (including statutory rape) must register as sex offenders.
Defenses to a Statutory Rape Charge
Defendants charged with statutory rape have the usual defenses available to all criminal defendants, starting with “Someone else committed this crime” and a claim that the alleged conduct did not take place.
"Romeo and Juliet" exception
Named after Shakespeare’s young lovers, “Romeo and Juliet” exceptions are intended to prevent serious criminal charges against teenagers who engage in consensual sex with others close to their own age. In Wyoming, there is a Romeo and Juliet exemption for consensual sex between a minor 14 or younger who has sex with a defendant who is three or fewer years older than the minor.
Mistake of age
Defendants accused of statutory rape often claim that they had no reason to know that their partner was underage. They may argue that the victim herself represented that she was older than she was, and that a reasonable person would have believed her. But in Wyoming, even a reasonable mistake as to the victim's age will not be a defense to a charge of statutory rape.
See a Lawyer
If you are facing a statutory rape charge, consider consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney who regularly practices in your area. A lawyer can evaluate the strength of the prosecution’s case against you and help develop any defenses that might apply to your case.
A lawyer can often negotiate with the prosecutor for a lesser charge or a reduction in penalties (such as, for example, probation instead of prison time); and will know how prosecutors and judges typically handle cases like yours.
Help for Sexual Assault and Rape Survivors
If you are a victim of sexual assault or rape, contact Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) for online help and local resources.