In Alaska, it can be a crime—statutory rape—to have sexual relations with a person younger than 16, even if the sex is consensual. Statutory rape laws are premised on the assumption that minors are incapable of giving informed consent to sexual activities. Their legal incapacity is written into the statute—hence the term, "statutory" rape. Most statutory rape offenses in Alaska are felonies.
The age of consent for sexual relations in Alaska is 16. Two individuals who are 16 or older can legally consent to have sexual relations. When one of the parties is younger than 16, sexual relations can be a crime.
For instance, Alaska law prohibits sex between teenagers who are more than four years apart in age (such as a 13-year-old and an 18-year-old). The law also makes it a crime for anyone 16 or older to have sex with someone younger than 13. If one of the parties holds a position of authority over the other (such as a teacher, coach, or boss), the age of consent is 18.
Below we review the specific laws and penalties governing statutory rape in Alaska.
In Alaska, statutory rape is prosecuted under the state's sexual abuse laws. The offense level and penalties depend on the age of the parties, the relationship between the parties, and the type of sexual conduct that occurred—sexual penetration or contact.
Sexual penetration includes sexual intercourse, anal and oral sex, and any penetration (no matter how slight) of an object or body part into another's genital or anal openings.
Sexual contact includes knowingly touching, under or over clothing, another's genitals, anus, or female breasts. It also includes causing a victim to make sexual conduct with the defendant or causing the victim to come into contact with semen.
Position of authority means an employer, coach, teacher, club leader, counselor, school administrator, religious leader, doctor, nurse, babysitter, and others in similar positions.
(Alaska Stat. § 11.81.900 (2023).)
Alaska divides statutory rape offenses into four crimes—first- through fourth-degree sexual abuse of a minor. Crimes involving sexual penetration fall under the first and second degrees. Acts involving sexual contact are covered under the second-, third-, and fourth-degree crimes.
The most serious statutory rape offenses fall under Alaska's first-degree offense for sexual abuse of a minor. This unclassified felony involves sexual penetration between:
A person convicted of this offense faces 20 to 99 years in prison. The penalties vary based on the age of the victim and the defendant's criminal history.
Sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree carries class B felony penalties. This offense involves:
Penalties for this offense carry at least a five-year prison sentence and up to 99 years.
A defendant convicted of third-degree sexual abuse of a minor faces class C felony penalties. This offense involves sexual contact between a minor age 13, 14, or 15, and a defendant who is 17 or older and at least four years older than the minor.
This class C felony carries a maximum five-year prison sentence when the age gap is four or five years. If the defendant was at least six years older, the penalty increases to a minimum of two years and a maximum of 99 years of prison time.
Sexual abuse of a minor in the fourth degree involves sexual contact between:
This offense is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year of jail time.
(Alaska Stat. §§ 11.41.434, 11.41.436, 11.41.438, 11.41.440, 12.55.125, 12.55.135 (2023).)
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.
Alaska has limited Romeo-and-Juliet exceptions. For instance, the law doesn't criminalize sexual relations between minors who are less than four years apart in age when both are at least 13 years old. When one of the parties is younger than 13, the age difference cannot be more than three years. Alaska's law also punishes sexual contact between teenagers less harshly when the age gap is four to five years versus when the age gap is six or more years.
(Alaska Stat. §§ 11.41.434, 11.41.436, 11.41.438, 11.41.440 (2023).)
Defendants charged with statutory rape have the usual defenses available to all criminal defendants, such as "Someone else committed this crime," or "The alleged conduct did not occur." One or more of the following defenses may also apply.
Alaska has a marital exemption for statutory rape that allows consensual sex between a married minor and that minor's adult spouse, even though their ages would prohibit it if they were not married. Nonconsensual sex between spouses is always a crime. (Alaska Stat. § 11.41.445 (2023).)
Defendants accused of statutory rape often claim that they had no reason to know that their partner was underage. While many states no longer recognize a mistake-of-age defense, Alaska does. But the law requires a defendant's mistake to be reasonable and the defendant must have taken reasonable steps to verify the partner's age. Taking someone's word for it doesn't suffice. (Alaska Stat. § 11.41.445 (2023).)
State law requires that, in addition to the applicable fines and prison time, people convicted of sexual abuse of a minor must register as sex offenders. Teenagers who receive delinquency adjudications in juvenile court are not "convicted" and would not have to register.
(Alaska Stat. §§ 12.63.010, 12.63.100 (2023).)
If you're facing a statutory rape charge, consider consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney who regularly practices in your area. The law can change at any time, and 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.