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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Ind. Law - "16 is Indiana's legal age of consent"

Here is Ken Kosky's "It's the Law" column in the NWI Times that I missed a month ago -- Nov. 24th to be exact. It focuses on "the age of consent and sex crimes against those who are not of the age of consent." From the story:

Even though a person can face serious prison time for engaging in sexual acts with someone under the age of consent, quite a few people don't even know the age of consent.

"The age of consent in Indiana is 16. There's a presumption in the law that prior to 16, you're not capable of consenting," Porter County Prosecutor Brian Gensel said.

Gensel said prosecutors have long used discretion when deciding whether to file charges in borderline cases -- like when an 18-year-old male is in a dating/sexual relationship with a girl who is about to turn 16.

Gensel said Indiana law was amended within the past few years to address such cases. Indiana law now states a person can have sex with someone under the age of consent as long as he or she is not more than four years older than the underage person and if the relationship was ongoing. So, a 19-year-old can be with a 15-year-old.

A person accused of a sex crime also might be able to avoid prosecution if he or she can prove they reasonably believed the victim was at least 16 years old.

The main laws that apply to people who engage in sexual activity with an underage person are child molesting and sexual misconduct with a minor.

Child molesting is defined as having intercourse or engaging in deviate sexual conduct with a child younger than 14. The Class B felony, punishable by as many as 20 years in prison, becomes a Class A felony, punishable by as many as 50 years in prison, if the perpetrator is at least 21; if the act was committed with a weapon or threat of force; if serious bodily injury results; or if the person knew the victim was slipped a drug without his or her knowledge.

Sexual misconduct with a minor is defined as a person at least 18 years of age engaging in intercourse or deviate sexual conduct with someone aged 14 or 15. The Class C felony, punishable by as many as eight years in prison, becomes a Class B felony if committed by someone at least 21. It becomes a Class A felony if committed while armed, if injury occurs or if drugs were slipped to the victim. If only fondling is involved, the offense drops one felony level.

The age of consent varies from state to state.

Here is a related story quoted in an ILB entry from July 8, 2007, headed "New law 'decriminalizes' some teen sex: 'Romeo and Juliet defense' may apply to couples." The story from the Lafayette Journal & Courier began:
For years in Indiana, the age at which a person could legally consent to have sex was 16.

But lawyers for young defendants accused of having sex with 14- and 15-year-olds now can pose a defense against charges of sexual misconduct with a minor.

Public Law 216 [HEA 1386], which went into effect July 1, contains a long list of criminal law changes related to sexual and violent offenses and the Indiana Sex Offender Registry, which has been renamed the Sex and Violent Offender Registry.

Among those changes, the law creates a legal defense, nicknamed the "Romeo and Juliet defense," against charges of sexual misconduct with a minor.

"The change in the law decriminalizes consensual sex among teenagers in a dating relationship if they are within four years age difference," said Larry Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 25, 2008 12:35 PM
Posted to Indiana Law