• Evan M. Howard

Charge and Defense: Missouri Statutory Rape


This is the first posting for a new blog article series called Charge and Defense, where I will go into greater detail on certain crimes, the elements of that crime and the possible defenses. To kick off our first posting, we’ll be discussing the charge of statutory rape in the State of Missouri.

The Charge

In Missouri, statutory rape is defined as rape in the first degree (RSMO § 566.032) and rape in the second degree (RSMO § 566.034).

First Degree Statutory Rape

A person commits the offense of statutory rape in the first degree if he or she has sexual intercourse with another person who is less than fourteen years of age.

The penalty for first degree statutory rape is up to life in prison or a minimum of 5 years unless:

1. The offense is an aggravated sexual offense, or the victim is less than twelve years of age in which case the authorized term of imprisonment is life imprisonment or a term of years not less than ten years; or

2. The person is a persistent or predatory sexual offender as defined in section RSMO § 566.125 and subjected to an extended term of imprisonment under said section.

Second Degree Statutory Rape

A person commits the offense of statutory rape in the second degree if being twenty-one years of age or older, he or she has sexual intercourse with another person who is less than seventeen years of age.

The penalty for second degree rape is a Class D Felony punishable up to 7 years in prison.

In addition to the prison sentence, a person who is convicted of any sex crime involving a minor in the State of Missouri must register as a sex offender. RSMO § 589.400.

The Defense

Unfortunately, statutory rape is a strict liability crime. This means the person’s negligence or intent to commit the crime is irrelevant; if they committed the crime but never intended to commit the crimes, they’re still going to be found guilty.

With statutory rape, the defendant usually will come to the attorney and say something to the effect of, “she looked at least 18” or “she showed me her I.D. and it said she was of age.” Here, that is irrelevant because statutory rape is a strict liability crime. In Missouri, mistake is not a valid defense for a charge of first degree statutory rape. However, there is a valid defense to the charge of second degree statutory rape of a child over the age of 14 that the defendant believed the child to be 17 years old or older, so long as the belief is “reasonable.” RSMO § 566.020.

Marriage is a valid defense to the charge of second degree statutory rape if the defendant and the child were married at the time of the sexual intercourse. RSMO § 566.023.

Missouri also has what’s called a “Romeo and Juliet” exception. This exceptions looks to the age of the defendant at the time of the sexual intercourse. It protects persons under the age of 21 from being prosecuted for engaging in consensual sexual intercourse with a person whom is over the age of 14 but under the age of 17.

Being charged with statutory rape is an extremely serious charge carrying a hefty prison sentence and being registered as a sex offender. Being convicted of this charge will have a lasting effect on your life. If you’ve been charged with statutory rape in the State of Missouri, contact Howard Law at (314) 325-9868 for immediate help.

About The Author

Evan M. Howard is the managing attorney for Howard Law, a St. Louis business law and criminal defense law firm based in Clayton, Missouri. Howard Law is focused on giving honest, quick and effective representation to all of its clients. With a background in business and experience dealing with tough criminal prosecution cases, Howard Law is ready to help guide you through your legal matter.

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Howard Haake is a St. Louis law firm based in Clayton, Missouri focused on business law, criminal defense, family law and estate planning. We handle all business matters from incorporation to acquisition as well as criminal defense charges from arrest to trial. Howard Haake helps clients in St. Louis, St. Charles, St. Peters, O'Fallon, Brentwood, Columbia, Eureka, Richmond Heights, Clayton, Jennings, Kirkwood, Maplewood, Manchester, Northwoods, Olivette, University City, Creve Coeur, Maryland Heights, Bridgeton, Florissant, Ladue, Webster Groves, Hazelwood, Hillsboro, Washington, Union, Hermann, Pacific, and throughout St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Jefferson County, Franklin County, Warren County, Gasconade County, Boone County, Crawford County, Montgomery County, and Marion County.

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