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Is Not Knowing a Minor’s Age a Valid Statutory Rape Defense?


In Missouri, the age of sexual consent is 17-years old. This legally permits anyone 17 or older to decide whether or not they want to engage in sexual activity with other people who are also over the age of consent. It is also not a sex crime for someone aged 15 or 16 to engage in sexual activities with someone aged between 15 and 20.

When someone aged 21 or older engages in sexual activities with anyone aged 17 or younger in Missouri, it can constitute statutory rape, statutory sodomy, or possibly sexual misconduct. Statutory sex crimes do not consider consent. That is to say, it is always a crime for an adult of 21-years or older to have sexual conduct or contact with someone under 17, regardless of circumstances. This can make it quite difficult to defend yourself from such charges.

“I Thought They Were Older” – Defense of Ignorance

How can you create a defense to statutory rape or sexual conduct with a minor? One of the most common strategies is proving your ignorance of the minor’s age.

There are times when a minor may propose they are 17 or older but are younger in actuality. It is not fair to charge you with statutory rape if you had valid reason to believe the minor was older. Letting your case come down to verbal arguments, though, is not ideal. The court will not likely side with you if you only have your word to go on.

Instead, consider if there are tangible forms of evidence you can use in your defense. Did the minor show you a falsified ID card that stated they were older than the age of consent? Let your sex crimes defense lawyer know, and they may be able to demand the card is produced as evidence in court. You should also consider digital communications, like emails, text messages, and social media conversations. In many sexual conduct with a minor cases, the illegal relationship begins with the minor pretending to be an adult through an online social or dating site. Records of communications can solidly show you had every reason to believe the minor was an adult.

Put 30+ Years of Legal Experience In Your Corner

Using a defense of ignorance is difficult, and potentially risky. You will essentially be admitting to the crime but challenging the intent or definitions of your actions. Do not try to construct your defense alone.

Call (314) 334-3807 to connect with The Hammer Law Firm, LLC and our St. Louis criminal defense attorneys. We have decades of combined legal experience focused on criminal cases, including work as former prosecutors who know how the other side of the courtroom operates. Defend yourself with our knowledge and insight by retaining our services today. Contact us now for a free case evaluation to begin.

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