Missouri Statutory Rape Laws

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

Seventeen is the age of consent in Missouri. Adults who engage in sexual activity with children under the age of consent can be prosecuted and convicted of statutory rape, statutory sodomy, or child molestation. It is also a crime in Missouri for a teacher or school employee to engage in sexual contact with a student.

In all statutory rape cases, the determinative fact is whether the victim is underage. Consent is not an issue. Of course, people who commit sex acts against others of any age without their consent may be convicted of rape, sexual battery, or assault. For more information on these crimes, see Sexual Battery: Law and Penalties, Misdemeanor Assault in Missouri, Assault in the First Degree in Missouri, and Assault in the Second Degree in Missouri.

Missouri’s Statutory Rape and Sodomy Laws

In Missouri, a person commits the crime of second degree statutory rape by engaging in sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 17 when the defendant is over the age of 21. A person age 21 or older that engages in sodomy (oral or anal sex or sexual penetration) with a child under the age of 17 commits the crime of second degree statutory sodomy. (Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 566.034, 566.064 (2018).)

No matter what the defendant’s age, it is a crime (first degree statutory rape or sodomy) to engage in sexual intercourse or sodomy with a child under the age of 14. (Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 566.032, 566.062 (2018).)

For example, a 22-year-old who has sex with a 16-year-old could be convicted of second degree statutory rape. Any person who engages in sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old could be convicted of first degree statutory rape.

Other Sexual Activity

Under Missouri's laws, a person who engages in sexual contact short of intercourse or sodomy with a child under the age of 17 commits the crime of child molestation.

First degree child molestation includes sexual contact with a child under 14 years old if the defendant:

  • seriously injures the child
  • displays a weapon in a threatening manner, or
  • is a member of the child’s family.

(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 566.067 (2018).)

Second degree child molestation involves sexual contact between a defendant of any age and a child under 12 years old or between a child under 17 and a defendant who is more than four years older than the child if the defendant:

  • seriously injures the child
  • displays a weapon in a threatening manner, or
  • is a member of the child’s family.

(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 566.068 (2018).)

Third degree child molestation involves sexual contact with a child under 14 years old and a defendant of any age. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 566.069 (2018).)

Fourth degree child molestation involves sexual contact with a child under 17 years old and a defendant who is more than four years older than the child. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 566.071 (2018).)

Teachers and Students

In Missouri, it is also a crime to engage in any sexual contact with a public or private school student if the defendant is a school teacher, student teacher, employee, official, volunteer, or contractor. For example, a volunteer assistant coach who engages in sexual activity with a student could be convicted of the crime of sexual contact with a student. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 566.086 (2018).)

Child Enticement

It is also a crime under Missouri’s laws to invite or ask a child under the age of 15 (or a police officer masquerading as a child under the age of 15) to engage in sexual conduct or to misrepresent one’s age online in order to engage in sexual conduct with a child. For example, a 21-year-old who texts a child with an invitation to engage in sexual activity can be convicted of child enticement, even if nothing sexual occurs between the defendant and the child. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 566.151 (2018).)

Possible Defenses to a Statutory Rape Charge

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.” But under Missouri's laws, there are some other important potential defenses in statutory rape cases.

Mistake of Age

In most states, it is not a defense to a charge of statutory rape that the defendant mistakenly believed the child to be of age. In Missouri, mistake is not a defense to a charge of first degree statutory rape or sodomy or molestation of a child under 14. However, it is a defense to a charge of second degree statutory rape or sodomy or molestation of a child over the age of 14 that the defendant believed the child to be age 17 or older, so long as the belief is reasonable. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 566.020 (2018).)

Marriage

It is a defense to a charge of statutory rape or sodomy or child molestation that the defendant and the child were married. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 566.023 (2018).) The marital defense is a remnant of the marital rape exemption.

When Both Parties are Minors: The “Romeo and Juliet” Exception

Many states have enacted “Romeo and Juliet” exceptions, named for William Shakespeare’s young lovers, to protect young people from criminal charges as a result of consensual sexual activity with other teens. Missouri’s statutory rape and sodomy laws protect people under the age of 21 from being prosecuted for engaging in consensual sexual conduct with people who are over the age of 14 but under the age of 17. And there is an exemption for consensual sexual contact between someone who is at least 14 but younger than 17 and someone who is no more than four years older. For example, a 17-year-old who engages in consensual petting with a 14-year-old could not be prosecuted for a crime. (Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 566.034, 566.064, 566.071 (2018).)

However, it is always a crime to engage in sexual conduct with someone under 14 years old, no matter the defendant's age, and a conviction can result in a sentence of up to life in prison, large fines, or both.

Potential Punishments for Statutory Rape

Second degree statutory rape and sodomy are Class D felonies, punishable by up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. (Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 558.002, 558.011, 566.034, 566.064 (2018).)

First degree statutory rape and sodomy are punishable by five years’ to life imprisonment, or ten years to life in prison if the child is under the age of 12. (Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 566.032, 566.062 (2018).)

First degree child molestation is a Class A felony, punishable by ten to 30 years’ or life imprisonment. If the child is under 12, the defendant is not eligible for probation or parole. (Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 558.011, 566.067 (2018).)

Second degree child molestation is a Class B felony, punishable by five to 15 years in prison. (Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 558.011, 566.068 (2018).)

Third degree child molestation is a Class C felony, and a conviction can lead to three to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. If the defendant used force or compulsion, the offense is a Class B felony. (Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 558.002, 558.011, 566.069 (2018).)

Fourth degree child molestation is a Class E felony. A conviction can result in up to four years in prison and a fine of as much as $10,000. (Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 558.002, 558.011, 566.071 (2018).)

Sexual contact with a student is also a Class E felony, punishable by up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. (Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 558.002, 558.011, 566.086 (2018).)

Sex Offender Registration

People in Missouri who are convicted of any sex crime involving a minor must register as sex offenders. Registered sex offenders are required to provide their names, addresses, and photographs to local police, who make this information available to the public. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 589.400 (2018).)

Legal Help

Being convicted of any crime, but especially a sex crime, can have extremely serious consequences. In addition to time in prison or jail and sex offender registration, a criminal conviction can result in a harsher sentence if you are ever convicted of another crime and, if convicted of a felony, you can lose your right to vote, own a firearm, or hold public office. A criminal conviction can also make it more difficult to obtain a job or a professional license. Only an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you successfully navigate the criminal justice system and protect your rights.

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 31, 2018

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