Indiana Statutory Rape Laws

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

By , Attorney · University of Houston Law Center
Updated November 29, 2023

Indiana law makes it illegal for a person to have consensual sexual activity with a minor younger than 16, with a few exceptions (see below). Anyone who engages in such unlawful conduct can face charges for child molestation, sexual misconduct with a child, or child seduction.

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 without the other person's consent can result in more serious charges and penalties, no matter what the age of the other person.

What Is the Age of Consent in Indiana?

In Indiana, the age of consent is 16. Anyone who engages in sexual activity with a child younger than 16 can face charges for statutory rape or a similar crime. If a person holds a position of trust or authority over a child, the age of consent is 18.

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.

Indiana's Statutory Rape Laws and Penalties

Statutory rape is prosecuted under Indiana's rape and sex crime laws. Penalties depend on the ages of the defendant and victim and the conduct that occurred. Sexual intercourse means an act that includes vaginal intercourse or penetration, however slight, by a body part or object. Other sexual conduct includes oral or anal sex. The law also covers sexual fondling and touching.

Child Molestation (Child Younger Than 14)

A person commits child molestation by engaging in sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct with a child younger than 14. If the defendant is younger than 21, child molestation constitutes a level 3 felony, punishable by 3 to 16 years' imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. An offender age 21 or older commits a level 1 felony and faces 20 to 50 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

When the crime involves fondling or touching for sexual purposes, it's a level 4 felony. This offense carries incarceration time of 2 to 12 years and a $10,000 fine.

Sexual Misconduct With a Child (Child Age 14 or 15)

Sexual misconduct with a child involves a person 18 or older engaging in any sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct with a minor who is 14 or 15 years old. A guilty defendant can receive a level 5 felony conviction with one to 6 years of incarceration time and a $10,000 fine. If, however, the unlawful actor is 21 or older, they are guilty of a level 4 felony, which carries 2 to 12 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

When an adult defendant sexually touches or fondles a child age 14 or 15, the offense carries level 6 felony penalties of 6 months to 2 ½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine. If the defendant is 21 or older, it becomes a level 5 felony, subjecting an offender to one to 6 years' imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.

Child Seduction by Person in Position of Trust or Authority

The law also makes it a crime for certain adults in positions of supervision or trust to engage in any sexual activity with a child. Those in a position of supervision or trust may include:

  • the child's guardian, adoptive parent, adoptive grandparent, stepparent, or childcare provider
  • the child's teacher or an employee at the child's school
  • the child's sports coach
  • the child's mental health provider
  • the child's workplace supervisor
  • a law enforcement officer who is acting in an official capacity, or
  • a military recruiter who is attempting to enlist the child.

This offense—child seduction—may involve a child younger than 18 (rather than 16). For certain relationships, a crime is only committed if the age difference is more than four years.

Child seduction can be a level 2 to 6 felony, depending on the age of the minor, the conduct involved, and the defendant's position of authority. For example, a law enforcement officer who engages in sexual intercourse with a child 13 or younger is guilty of a level 2 felony and faces 10 to 30 years' imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. A therapist commits a level 6 felony by touching their 17-year-old patient, subjecting them to 6 months to 2 ½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Does Indiana 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. Indiana's Romeo-and-Juliet exemption protects from prosecution certain minors who engage in consensual sex. The law applies to consensual sexual acts between a defendant who is younger than 21 and not more than four years older than the victim, and they are in an ongoing personal relationship.

For example, an 18-year-old who is romantically involved with a 15-year-old could assert this defense. 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.

Defenses to a Statutory Rape Charge in Indiana

Defendants charged with sex-related crimes of minors in Indiana 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."

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 themselves represented that they were older than they really were, and that a reasonable person would have believed them.

Unlike most states, Indiana does recognize a mistake-of-age defense statutory rape crimes in some circumstances. For example, it can be a defense to a sex crime if the defendant mistakenly believed the child was a particular age, their belief was reasonable, and if the minor were that age, the conduct at issue would not be criminal. 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.


Indiana has a marital exemption for statutory rape that allows consensual sex between a married minor and their adult spouse even though their ages would prohibit it if they were not married. The marital defense is a remnant of the marital rape exemption.


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 Indiana.

Does Sex Offender Registration Apply to Statutory Rape Crimes in Indiana?

Indiana's Sex Offender Registration Act requires, in addition to the applicable fines and incarceration time, people convicted of certain sexual crimes (including statutory rape) to register as sex offenders. These crimes include sexual misconduct with a child in certain circumstances (depending on the nature of the offense and the ages of the defendant and victim), child molestation, and child seduction. Depending on the level of the offense, registration lasts from 10 years to life.

Juvenile offenders who were 14 or older at the time of the offense, have been released from confinement, and are likely to commit another sex crime must also register. Failure to register can result in additional felony charges and penalties.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you are facing a charge of statutory rape 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.

(Ind. Code §§ 11-8-8-4.5, 11-8-8-7, 11-8-8-8, 11-8-8-19, 35-31.5-2-221.5, 35-31.5-2-302, 35-41-1-9, 35-42-4-3, 35-42-4-7, 35-42-4-9, 35-50-2-4, 35-50-2-4.5, 35-50-2-5, 35-50-2-5.5, 35-50-2-6, 35-50-2-7 (2023).)

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