Connecticut Statutory Rape Laws

Statutes governing Connecticut's age of consent, associated criminal charges, available defenses, and penalties for conviction.

By , Attorney · University of Houston Law Center
Updated 2/07/2024

Connecticut law makes it illegal for a person to have consensual sexual activity with a minor younger than 16, with a few exceptions. Anyone who engages in such unlawful conduct can face charges for varying degrees of sexual assault.

Statutory rape laws are premised on the assumption that minors are incapable of giving informed consent to sexual activities. 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. Keep in mind that engaging in any sexual activity by force or without the other person's consent can result in more serious charges and penalties, no matter the age of the other person.

What Is the Age of Consent in Connecticut?

In Connecticut, the age of consent is 16. Anyone who engages in sexual activity with a child younger than 16 can face charges for sexual assault. For these age-based sexual offenses, it's immaterial whether the child consented to the activity or not. The child's age is the important fact, as it determines whether that person can legally consent to sexual activities.

Connecticut's Statutory Rape Laws and Penalties

Statutory rape is prosecuted under Connecticut's sexual assault laws. Penalties depend on the ages of the defendant and victim and the conduct that occurred (sexual intercourse or contact).

Sexual intercourse means sexual activity between people consisting of oral, genital, or anal sex or penetration, however slight, by a body part or object.

Sexual contact occurs when the offender, for purposes of sexual gratification or arousal, touches the sexual or intimate parts of the minor, directly or through clothing, or for the purpose of degrading or humiliating the person.

Intimate parts include the genital area, groin, anus, inner thighs, buttocks, or breasts.

Penalties for First-Degree Sexual Assault

A person commits first-degree sexual assault by engaging in sexual intercourse with a person who is younger than 13 when the offender is more than two years older than the victim. Sexual assault in the first degree constitutes a Class A felony, punishable by 10 to 25 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

Penalties for Second-Degree Sexual Assault

A defendant is guilty of second-degree sexual assault when they have sexual intercourse with a minor who is 13 to 15 when the defendant is more than three years older than the victim. Such an offense is a Class B felony, which carries penalties of one to 20 years' imprisonment and a $15,000 fine.

Penalties for Fourth-Degree Sexual Assault

Fourth-degree sexual assault occurs when an unlawful actor has sexual contact with someone who is:

  • younger than 13 when the offender is more than two years older than the victim, or
  • 13 or 14 when the defendant is more than three years older than the minor.

Fourth-degree sexual assault constitutes a Class D felony. A guilty defendant faces up to five years of incarceration and a $5,000 fine.

Does Connecticut Have a Romeo-and-Juliet Law?

Yes, but with limitations. In many states, "Romeo and Juliet" exceptions— named for Shakespeare's teenage lovers—protect young people from criminal charges for engaging in consensual sexual conduct with others close to their own age.

Connecticut's Romeo-and-Juliet exemptions apply only when consensual sexual activity involves close-in-age minors. The law doesn't criminalize sexual relations involving minors who are less than two or three years apart in age, depending on the age of the younger partner. For example, Connecticut's sexual assault law doesn't criminalize consensual sexual contact between a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old.

Possible Defenses to a Statutory Rape Charge in Connecticut

Defendants charged with sex-related crimes in Connecticut have several potential defenses available to them. At the same time, the law prohibits or limits the use of certain defenses.

Actual innocence. Defendants charged with statutory rape or a similar crime have the usual defenses available to all criminal defendants, such as "Someone else committed this crime," or "The alleged conduct did not occur."

Marriage or cohabitation. Connecticut has a marital exemption for statutory rape that allows married people or unmarried people who are living together as a couple to have consensual sex even if their ages would prohibit it if they were not married or cohabitating. This defense is a remnant of the marital rape exemption.

Consent is not a defense. While many offenders attempt to use consent as a defense, this does not constitute a sufficient defense in sex crime prosecutions involving a victim younger than 16 in Connecticut.

Mistake of age is not a defense. 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 claimed to be older, and that a reasonable person would have believed them. But even if this is true, a defendant cannot rely on a mistake of age—even a reasonable one—to avoid conviction. Mistake of age is not a defense in Connecticut.

Is Sex Offender Registration Required for Statutory Rape in Connecticut?

Connecticut's Sex Offender Registration law requires people convicted of certain sexual crimes (including statutory rape) to register as sex offenders. Depending on the level of the offense, registration lasts from 10 years to life. The law also provides for an exemption of this requirement in certain circumstances. For example, the court may exempt a defendant guilty of second-degree sexual assault if the offender is younger than 19 and the court finds that registration is not required for public safety.

Connecticut does not require juveniles found delinquent to register. However, if they are tried as adults and convicted, then the registration requirement applies to them. Failure to register constitutes a Class D felony and can result in additional penalties.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you are facing a charge of statutory rape, sexual assault, or a similar crime, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area as soon as possible. A lawyer can evaluate the strength of the prosecution's case against you and help develop any defenses that might apply to the unique circumstances of your case. A knowledgeable attorney can also advise you on how the law will apply to your set of facts.

(Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 53a-35a, 53a-41, 53a-65, 53a-67, 53a-70, 53a-71, 53a-73a, 54-250, 54-251 (2024).)

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