Wyoming Statutory Rape Laws

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

By , MSLIS · Long Island University
Updated by Rebecca Pirius, Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated September 15, 2023

Wyoming's statutory rape laws carry stiff penalties. Having consensual sexual relations with a minor—sexual intercourse or contact—may result in felony charges and lengthy prison sentences.

What Is the Age of Consent in Wyoming?

The age of consent in Wyoming is 18. 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.

Wyoming's Statutory Rape Laws

Wyoming doesn't use the term "statutory rape." Rather, this offense is prosecuted under Wyoming's sexual abuse laws. The exact crime and penalty will depend on the age of the parties, the relation between the parties, and the type of sexual activity that occurred—referred to as "sexual intrusion" or "sexual contact" in the law.

"Sexual intrusion" refers to sexual intercourse, oral or anal sex, or penetration of the genitals or anus with an object or body part, however slight.

"Sexual contact" means touching another's intimate parts, including over clothing, with the intent of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse.

Is Statutory Rape a Felony in Wyoming?

Wyoming has four degrees of statutory sexual abuse of a minor—all of which are felonies. The harshest penalties apply to situations where the minor is younger than 13 or the defendant holds a position of authority over the minor.

First-Degree Sexual Abuse of a Minor

Wyoming defines first-degree sexual abuse of a minor as sexual intrusion between:

  • a defendant who is 16 or older and a minor who is younger than 13
  • a defendant who is 18 or older and a minor who is younger than 18, when the defendant is the minor's legal guardian or a family member, or
  • a defendant who is 18 or older and a minor who is younger than 16, when the defendant is in a position of authority over the child.

A person convicted of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor faces up to 50 years in prison. If the defendant is 21 or older, a 25-year mandatory minimum prison sentence applies.

(Wyo. Stat. §§ 6-2-301, 6-2-314 (2023).)

Second-Degree Sexual Abuse of a Minor

Second-degree sexual abuse of a minor can involve sexual intrusion or contact in the following situations:

  • sexual intrusion when the defendant is 17 or older and the minor is 13, 14, or 15, and their age difference is at least 4 years
  • sexual contact when the defendant is 16 or older and the minor is younger than 13
  • sexual contact when the minor is younger than 18 and the defendant is at least 18 and is the minor's legal guardian or a family member, or
  • sexual contact when the minor is younger than 16 and the defendant is at least 18 and in a position of authority over the minor.

This offense is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

(Wyo. Stat. §§ 6-2-301, 6-2-315 (2023).)

Third-Degree Sexual Abuse of a Minor

Third-degree sexual abuse of a minor can involve sexual intrusion or contact or taking indecent liberties with a minor in the following situations:

  • sexual intrusion when the defendant is 20 or older and the minor is 16 or 17, their age difference is at least 4 years, and the defendant holds a position of authority over the minor
  • sexual intrusion when the defendant is younger than 16 and the minor is younger than 13, and their age difference is at least 3 years
  • sexual contact when the defendant is 17 or older and the minor is 13, 14, or 15, and their age difference is at least 4 years, or
  • when the defendant is 17 or older and takes indecent liberties with a minor younger than 17, and their age difference is at least 4 years.

This offense carries up to 15 years in prison.

(Wyo. Stat. §§ 6-2-301, 6-2-316 (2023).)

Fourth-Degree Sexual Abuse of a Minor

Fourth-degree sexual abuse of a minor involves sexual contact between:

  • a minor who is younger than 13 and the defendant younger than 16, and their age difference is at least 3 years, or
  • a minor who is 16 or 17 and the defendant is 20 or older, their age difference is at least 4 years, and the defendant holds a position of authority over the minor.

This offense carries up to five years in prison.

(Wyo. Stat. §§ 6-2-301, 6-2-317 (2023).)

Does Wyoming Have Romeo-and-Juliet Laws?

Yes, Wyoming has several Romeo-and-Juliet exceptions in its sexual abuse laws. 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.

Many of Wyoming's statutory sexual abuse laws apply only when the parties are more than three or four years apart in age, meaning several close-in-age sexual relations are not considered crimes. For instance, consensual sex between a 15-year-old and a 17-year-old is not considered sexual abuse because the teens are less than four years apart in age. However, not every situation listed above has a close-in-age exception. It's important to read the law carefully. (See the descriptions of Wyoming's statutory sexual abuse laws, above.)

(Wyo. Stat. §§ 6-2-314, 6-2-315, 6-2-316, 6-2-317 (2023).)

Is Mistake of Age a Defense to Statutory Rape in Wyoming?

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 claimed to be older and a reasonable person would have believed them. In Wyoming, mistake of age can be a defense to a statutory rape charge in certain cases. If the criminality of the sexual activity depends on the victim being 14 or 15, the defendant can raise reasonable mistake of age as an affirmative defense. However, if the criminality of the sexual conduct depends on the child being younger than 14 years old, ignorance or mistake of the child's age is not a defense.

(Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-308 (2023).)

Is Sex Offender Registration Required for Statutory Rape Convictions in Wyoming?

Wyoming law requires that, in addition to the applicable fines and prison time, people convicted of statutory sexual abuse against minors must register as sex offenders. Registration is a lifetime requirement unless reduced by the court. A person who fails to register as required faces a felony.

(Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-19-302, -304, 307 (2023).)

See a Lawyer

If you're facing a statutory rape charge, consider consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney who regularly practices in your area. A lawyer might be able to 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.

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