Indiana Statutory Rape Laws

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

In Indiana, a person can be convicted of statutory rape (also called child molestation, sexual misconduct, or child seduction) by engaging in sexual activity, even consensual sexual activity, with a child under 16 years of age. Engaging in any sexual activity with a person age 16 or older by force or without the other person’s consent can also result in criminal charges. (For more information on forcible sex crimes and battery, see Indiana Sexual Battery Laws and Indiana Felony Battery Laws.)

Indiana’s Statutory Rape Laws

Child molestation. Under Indiana’s laws, a person who engages in any sex act with a child under the age of 14 commits the crime of child molestation. (Ind. Code Ann. § 35-42-4-3 (2018).)

Sexual misconduct with a child. A person 18 years of age or older commits the crime of sexual misconduct by engaging in any sexual activity with a child over the age of 14 but under the age of 16.

Sexual misconduct is punished more severely if:

  • the defendant is over the age of 21
  • the sexual conduct includes sexual intercourse, penetration, or oral or anal sex, or
  • the defendant uses force or violence or engages in sexual conduct without the child’s consent.

(Ind. Code Ann. § 35-42-4-9 (2018).)

Child seduction. While anyone can commit child molestation or sexual misconduct, only a person over the age of 18 in a position of supervision or trust over a child can commit the crime of child seduction. A person who engages in any sexual activity with a child over the age of 16 but under the age of 18 commits child seduction where the defendant is:

  • the child’s guardian, adoptive parent, adoptive grandparent, stepparent, or child care provider
  • the child’s teacher or an employee at the child’s school
  • the child’s mental health provider
  • a law enforcement officer who is at least five years older than the child and is acting in an official capacity, or
  • a military recruiter who is attempting to enlist the child.

(Ind. Code Ann. § 35-42-4-7 (2018).)

For example, a teacher who has sex with a 17-year-old student can be convicted of child seduction.

Child Enticement

Adults who lure or try to lure children to engage in sexual contact can be convicted of child enticement (called child solicitation in Indiana), even if no sexual contact ever takes place. (Ind. Code Ann. § 35-42-4-6 (2018).)

Defenses to a Statutory Rape Charge

Indiana law provides important defense to statutory rape.

Mistake as to the child’s age

In many states, a defendant's mistaken belief as to a child's age is not a defense to a statutory rape. However, in Indiana, it is a defense to any sex crime that:

  • the defendant mistakenly believed the child to be of a particular age
  • the defendant’s belief was reasonable (supported by the circumstances), and
  • if the child were that age, the conduct at issue would not be criminal.

For example, if the child said that he or she was 17 years old, and other people told the defendant that the child was 17 years old, and the child was friendly with other 17 and 18-year-old children, then a defendant might be able to avoid a conviction for sexual misconduct.

This defense does not apply in cases of sexual misconduct by force or violence, because that conduct is criminal no matter the victim's age.

(Ind. Code Ann. §§ 35-41-3-7, 35-42-4-9 (2018); Lechner v. State, 715 N.E.2d 1285 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999).)

Marriage

In Indiana, it is a defense to a charge of sexual misconduct (except by force or violence) that the child and the defendant are or were married. (Ind. Code Ann. § 35-42-4-9 (2018).) This defense is a remnant of the marital rape defense.

When both parties are minors: The “Romeo and Juliet” defense

Named after Shakespeare’s famous young lovers, “Romeo and Juliet” defenses protect young people from criminal charges for engaging in consensual sex with others close to their own age. In Indiana, it is a defense to a charge of sexual misconduct (except by force or violence) that:

  • the defendant is under the age of 21 and not more than four years older than the victim, and
  • the defendant and the victim were in an ongoing personal relationship.

(Ind. Code Ann. § 35-42-4-9 (2018).)

For example, an 18-year-old who is romantically involved with a 15-year-old could assert this defense and hope to avoid criminal charges or conviction. However, any sexual contact with a child under the age of 14 is a felony offense, and a conviction can result in significant prison time.

Potential Punishments for Statutory Rape

Depending on the circumstances of the crime, child molestation is a Level 1, 2, or 3 felony. Punishments can range from three to 50 years’ imprisonment and a fine of as much as $10,000. (Ind. Code Ann. §§ 35-42-4-3, 35-50-2-4, 35-50-2-4.5, 35-50-2-5 (2018).)

Sexual misconduct by force or violence or without the child’s consent is a Level 1 or 2 felony, punishable by six to 40 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. (Ind. Code Ann. §§ 35-42-4-9, 35-50-2-4, 35-50-2-4.5, 35-50-2-5 (2018).)

Sexual misconduct that involves intercourse, penetration, or oral or anal sex is a Level 4 felony (punishable by two to 12 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000) if the defendant is over the age of 21; and a Level 5 felony (punishable by one to six years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000) if the defendant is under the age of 21. (Ind. Code Ann. §§ 35-42-4-9, 35-50-2-4, 35-50-2-5.5, 35-50-2-6 (2018).)

Sexual misconduct short of intercourse or penetration is a Level 5 felony if the defendant is over the age of 21, and a Level 6 felony if the defendant is under the age of 21. Level 6 felonies are punishable by a minimum of six months in jail or as much as two and a half years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $10,000. (Ind. Code Ann. §§ 35-42-4-9, 35-50-2-4, 35-50-2-6, 35-50-2-7 (2018).)

Child seduction is also a Level 5 or Level 6 felony depending on the circumstances of the crime. (Ind. Code Ann. §§ 35-42-4-7, 35-50-2-6, 35-50-2-7 (2018).)

Sex Offender Registration

People in Indiana who are convicted of child molestation and child seduction are required to register as sex offenders. People who are convicted of sexual misconduct with a child are also required to register if the crime is a Level 1, 2, 4, or 5 felony, although the court can decide to release a defendant from the registration requirement if the crime is a Level 5 felony and the defendant is not more than four years older than the child. (Ind. Code Ann. §§ 11-8-8-4.5, 11-8-8-7, 11-8-8-8, 11-8-8-19 (2018).)

Legal Help

Laws can change at any time. If you are charged with a sex crime involving a minor, you should contact a local criminal defense attorney. Being convicted of a sex crime has serious consequences. Retaining an experienced attorney will give you the best chance of avoiding a conviction and obtaining the best possible resolution 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 July 27, 2018

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