Idaho Statutory Rape Laws

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

In Idaho, a person who engages in sexual activity with a child under the age of 18 can be convicted of statutory rape, even if the child agrees to or initiates the activity.

For statutory rape, whether the child consents in irrelevant. However, engaging in sexual activity with another person of any age by force or when the other person is unable to consent or is prevented from resisting can lead to charges for forcible sex crimes or even assault. (For more information on assault crimes in Idaho, see our articles on Idaho assault and battery laws and Idaho aggravated assault and battery laws.)

Idaho’s Statutory Rape Laws and Potential Penalties

Rape. In Idaho, rape is defined as oral, anal, or vaginal penetration, however, slight, with a penis. The law states that both males and females are capable of committing rape. Under Idaho law, statutory rape occurs when there is penetration between:

  • a child who is under the age of 16 and a defendant who is 18 years of age or older, or
  • a child who is age 16 or 17 and a defendant who is three or more years older than the child.

For example, it is rape for a 19-year-old to have sex with a 15-year-old, and it is also rape for a 23-year-old person to allow a 17-year-old to perform oral sex on him or her.

A conviction for statutory rape can result in a prison sentence ranging from one year to life. (Idaho Code Ann. §§ 18-6101, 18-6104 (2018).)

Lewd conduct with a child under 16. The crime of lewd conduct with a child involves engaging in sexual contact (including genital-genital, genital-oral, and genital-anal contact) with a minor under the age of 16. A conviction can result in a sentence of up to life in prison. (Idaho Code. Ann. § 18-1508 (2018).)

Sexual battery of a child 16 or 17 years of age. A person commits sexual battery by engaging in or soliciting sexual contact with a child who is 16 or 17 years old when the defendant is at least five years older. A conviction can result in a prison sentence of up to 25 years or life, depending on the nature of the sex act. (Idaho Code Ann. § 18-1508A (2018).)

Sexual abuse of a child under 16. A person who is 18 years old or older commits sexual abuse by engaging in or soliciting sexual contact with a child under the age of 16. A conviction can result in up to 25 years in prison. (Idaho Code Ann. § 18-1506 (2018).)

Idaho’s Child Enticement Law

Talking to a child (or a person posing as a child) online about sexual activity or luring a child away from the child’s parents can result in child enticement charges, even if no sexual activity ever occurs. A conviction for child enticement can result in up to 15 years in prison. (Idaho Code Ann. §§ 18-1509, 18-1509A (2018).)

Sex Offender Registration

Under Idaho’s sex offender registration law, people convicted of statutory rape (except an 18-year-old defendant convicted of raping a child under the age of 16) are required to register as sex offenders. (Idaho Code Ann. §§ 18-8304, 18-8310 (2018).)

Defenses to a Statutory Rape Charge in Idaho

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.

Marriage

Under Idaho’s laws, a person cannot be convicted of statutory rape against his or her underage spouse. (Idaho Code Ann. § 18-6107 (2018).) This defense is part of Idaho’s marital rape exemption.

The “Romeo and Juliet” Exception

Named after the teenage lovers in Shakespeare’s play, “Romeo and Juliet” exceptions, like the ones in Idaho, are intended to prevent serious criminal charges against teenagers who engage in sex with others close to their own age. In Idaho, for example, an 18-year-old who had sex with a 16 or 17-year-old typically would not be prosecuted. (Idaho Code Ann. § 18-6101 (2018).)

However, sexual contact with a child under 16 years old is always a serious crime, no matter the age of the defendant. A conviction for engaging in sexual activity with someone younger than 16 is punishable by up to life in prison.

Mistake as to the child’s age

A mistake as to the child’s age is not a defense to a charge of statutory rape. (State v. Stiffler, 788 P.2d 220 (Idaho 1990).)

For example, even if a defendant believed that a girl was 18 years old, and the child looked 18 years old and told the defendant that she was 18 years old, that is not a defense to rape if the child is, in fact, under the age of 18.

Get Legal Help

A statutory rape conviction in Idaho carries potentially severe penalties. If you are charged with statutory rape, you should contact a local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options. The law can change at any time, and an experienced attorney will be able to explain the criminal justice system to you and present the strongest arguments in your case so that you can achieve the best outcome possible under the circumstances.

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.

Updated September 24, 2018

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