Published in Criminal Law by Chris Eskew on March 15, 2024.

Please note that our law firm practices law solely in the state of Indiana, and therefore cannot provide legal services outside of this jurisdiction.

A charge of sexual misconduct with a minor is a felony under Indiana law. A conviction could carry years of prison time and high fines.

It could also mean irreparable damage to your personal life and reputation.

A sex offense charge is a very serious matter and you need experienced, efficient counsel to help with your defense.

It is essential that you contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options.

What Is the Age of Consent in Indiana?

According to Indiana Code 35-42-4-9, the legal age of consent in Indiana is 16 years. Consequently, individuals below 16 years old lack the legal capacity to consent to any sexual activity, regardless of their explicit verbal consent. Essentially, verbal consent holds no legal weight under Indiana’s sexual consent statutes for individuals below the age of 16.
If you are over 18, it is generally illegal to have sexual contact with someone under 16.

Even if the minor is over the legal age of consent, the adult could still be in serious trouble in some situations. That being said, not all sexual activity between an adult and a minor is statutory rape.

The laws are complicated and rely heavily upon the facts of each situation.

What Is Consent?

There is no specific definition of consent in Indiana statutes. It is actually easier to talk about what is not consent.

There is no consent if the encounter involves force or intimidation. If someone is too inebriated or mentally disabled, they may not be able to give consent.

You cannot assume consent based on how someone behaves or dresses. You cannot assume consent because someone gave their consent previously or because they consented to other types of sexual activity.

Additionally, consent is revocable: anyone can change their mind. Consent must be freely given, explicit, and specific. Essentially, do not ever assume consent if you have any doubts. 

In terms of the laws on age of consent in Indiana, a minor under the age of 16 cannot consent to sexual contact with an adult.

What Is Statutory Rape?

A number of different sex offenses fall under the statutory rape statute. All the offenses for sexual conduct with a minor are felonies in Indiana. Level 1 felonies are the most serious offenses and carry the greatest penalties.

Sex offenses involving minors in Indiana include the following:

  • Child molestation occurs when an adult engages in sexual conduct with a minor under 14. It can be a Level 1, 2, 3, or 4 felony. Attempted child molestation occurs when the adult merely believes that the other person is under 14.
  • Sexual misconduct with a child involves an adult engaging in sexual conduct with a minor under 16. It can be a Level 1, 2, 4, or 5 felony.
  • Child seduction is committed when an adult in a position of trust or authority engages in sexual conduct with someone under 18. It can be a Level 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 felony.
  • Vicarious sexual gratification occurs when an adult participates in having the minor touch themselves or another minor for pleasure. It can be a Level 2, 3, 4, or 5 felony.
  • Child solicitation involves an adult soliciting a minor under 14 for sexual conduct. It can be a Level 4 or 5 felony.
  • Child exploitation includes circumstances when an adult is involved in any way with pornography involving a minor under 18. It can be a Level 4 or 5 felony.
  • Sexual conduct in the presence of a minor involves an adult engaging in sexual conduct in the presence of a minor under 14. It is a Level 6 felony.

If you were charged with any of these crimes, it is important that you reach out to an experienced criminal attorney as soon as possible. They will listen to your side of the story and help you understand your possible defenses and options.

What Are the Penalties for Violating Indiana Consent Laws?

The penalties for felony convictions in Indiana vary based upon the offense. A defendant may be subject to increased penalties if: 

  • They are over 21,
  • The minor is under 16, 
  • Penetration occurs, 
  • They use deadly force, 
  • A deadly weapon is present, 
  • The victim suffers serious injury, or 
  • The adult knows the victim is drugged. 

Below is a list of the different levels of felonies and their possible sentencing ranges. Each of them also carries the possibility of up to a $10,000 fine.

  • Level 1: 20 to 40 years (except child molestation carries a sentence of 20 to 50 years),
  • Level 2: 10 to 30 years,
  • Level 3: 3 to 16 years,
  • Level 4: 2 to 12 years,
  • Level 5: 1 to 6 years, and
  • Level 6: 6 months to 30 months. 

Additionally, someone convicted of a sex offense must also register as a sex offender, which could prevent them from finding employment, financial aid, and housing.

Are There Any Defenses to Statutory Rape?

The Romeo and Juliet defense protect people that had a relationship with someone when they were both minors. Its purpose is to protect teenagers from dating younger people when they turn 18.

The adult must be under 21, they must not be more than four years older than the minor, and the pair must have had an ongoing personal relationship.

The adult must not have a prior sex offense record, be in a position of authority or trust over the minor, or be promoting prostitution of the minor.

The adult may also have a defense if they reasonably believed that the victim was the legal age of consent in Indiana. 

How Can Eskew Law Help with Your Criminal Charge?

At Eskew Law, we value our relationships with our clients above all else. The client is our first and only concern, and each client receives personal, one-on-one contact with our attorneys.

Our experienced, talented criminal defense lawyers are ready to answer your questions and will tailor our representation to meet your specific needs.

Contact Eskew Law, today at 317-208-5573 or fill out the client intake form on our website to schedule an initial consultation.

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Chris Eskew

Chris Eskew is the founding partner of Eskew Law. With over 15 years of experience, he focuses his practice on criminal defense, DUI defense, and family law. Chris is known for his dedication to his clients, his strong advocacy skills, and his commitment to achieving the best possible outcomes in legal matters. He is well-respected within the legal community and has earned a reputation for providing personalized and effective representation.