In Oklahoma, it is illegal for an adult (someone 18 or older) to have sex with a minor (someone 15 or younger), even if the sex is consensual. Those who break the law have committed statutory rape.
Statutory rape laws are premised on the assumption that minors are incapable of giving informed consent to sexual activities. Their incapacity is written into the statute—hence the term, “statutory” rape. 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.
Though statutory rape does not require that the prosecutor prove an assault, it is still rape. Of course, rape that does involve force or an assault is illegal in Oklahoma and prosecuted as forcible rape. Assaults of a sexual nature may also be charged under the state’s assault and battery or child enticement laws.
Statutory rape is prosecuted under Oklahoma’s rape and sex crime laws. Penalties depend on the ages of the defendant and victim, and the conduct that occurred, as described below.
First degree rape includes consensual sex (which includes vaginal or anal intercourse or penetration, however slight, by a body part or object) between a minor who is younger than 14 and a defendant who is 18 or older. The offense is a felony, and potential penalties include at least five years (and up to life) in prison. (Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 21, §§ 1111, 1114, 1115 (2018).)
Second degree rape includes consensual sex between a minor younger than 14 and a defendant who is younger than 18. It also includes consensual sex between a minor who is 14 or 15, and a defendant who is 18 or older. The offense is a felony, and potential penalties include at least one year (and up to 15 years) in prison. (Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 21, §§ 1111, 1114, 1116 (2018).)
Lewd or indecent acts with a child younger than 16 includes sexual touching (without penetration) between a minor who is younger than 16 and a defendant who is at least three years older than the victim. Potential penalties include at least three years in prison. (Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 21, § 1123 (2018).)
State law requires that, in addition to the applicable fines and prison time, people convicted of certain sexual crimes (including some instances of statutory rape) must register as sex offenders. (Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 57, § 582 (2018).)
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.
Oklahoma has a marital exemption for statutory rape that allows consensual sex between married minors and their adult spouses even though their ages would prohibit it if they were not married. (The marital defense is a remnant of the marital rape exemption.) (Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 21, § 1111 (2018).)
Minors are legally incapable of giving consent to having sex; so for example, if Jen, a 15-year-old, willingly has sex with Tony, her 21-year-old boyfriend, Tony can be charged with rape, since Jen is not legally capable of giving consent in the first place.
But if Jen and Tony are married and living in Oklahoma, Tony need not fear criminal charges for having consensual sex with Jen. This is because Oklahoma has a marital exemption to the state’s statutory rape laws.
However, if Tony were to rape Jen (force her to have sex against her will), he would have no protection under the law even if the two are married.
Named after Shakespeare’s young lovers, “Romeo and Juliet” exceptions are intended to prevent serious criminal charges against teenagers who engage in consensual sex with others close to their own age. Oklahoma’s Romeo and Juliet exemption protects from prosecution certain minors who engage in consensual sex. The law applies to consensual sex between two minors who are at least 14 but younger than 18. (Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 21, § 1112 (2018).)
However, engaging in sex with a child under the age of 14 is always a serious crime, and a conviction can result in a sentence of up to life in prison.
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 herself represented that she was older than she was, and that a reasonable person would have believed her. But even if this is true, a defendant cannot rely on a mistake of age—even a reasonable one—to avoid conviction in Oklahoma.
If you are facing a statutory rape charge, consider consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney who regularly practices in your area. The law can change at any time, and a lawyer can evaluate the strength of the prosecution’s case against you and help develop any defenses that might apply to your case.
A lawyer can often negotiate with the prosecutor for a lesser charge or a reduction in penalties (such as, for example, probation instead of prison time) and will know how prosecutors and judges typically handle cases like yours.
If you are a victim of sexual assault or rape, contact Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) for online help and local resources.
Updated October 17, 2018