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.
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 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.
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.
Wyoming defines first-degree sexual abuse of a minor as sexual intrusion between:
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 can involve sexual intrusion or contact in the following situations:
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 can involve sexual intrusion or contact or taking indecent liberties with a minor in the following situations:
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 involves sexual contact between:
This offense carries up to five years in prison.
(Wyo. Stat. §§ 6-2-301, 6-2-317 (2023).)
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).)
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).)
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).)
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.