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What Is the Age of Consent in Indiana?

Consent is a mutual agreement to engage in sexual activity, but Indiana law establishes certain requirements for giving that consent. In particular, the age of consent in Indiana is 16, meaning no one under that age can legally consent to sexual activity. Even if a person under 16 explicitly agrees to have sex, their words are essentially ineffective under the age of consent laws in Indiana.

Engaging in any type of sexual activity without the consent of all participants or with the consent of someone under 16 is considered a sex crime. Here, an Indianapolis sex crimes attorney explains the concept of the age of consent and how it impacts sex crime charges.

Understanding the Legal Definition of Age of Consent in Indiana

Consent is a critical element when a sex crime is alleged to have occurred. Both parties must consent before participating in any type of sexual activity, and either may revoke consent at any time. This means that a person who initially agreed to a sex act could later change his or her mind, and the other party must respect the decision. Consent must also be given before transitioning from one sexual act to another. But given the age of consent in Indiana, the consent counts only if the person giving it is at least 16 years old.

Unlike in many states, there is no single statutory definition of consent in Indiana. However, the absence of consent is an element of certain Indiana sex crimes. For example, a person does any of the following to satisfy self or another commit sexual battery:

  • Touch a person by force or imminent threat of force
  • Touch a person who is so mentally deficient that they can’t consent to touching
  • Touch a person when that person is unaware that the touching is occurring

In other words, exerting strength or threatening the same to accomplish the touching, touching a person who does not possess the mental faculties to give consent to the touching, or touching a person’s private parts without his or her knowledge is considered non-consensual sexual activity in Indiana. As a result, you could be accused of an Indiana sex crime. In addition, if the person you touched sexually is less than 16-years-old, even with consent, you could be violating the age of consent laws in Indiana and accused of an Indiana sex offense due to lack of consent.

To avoid an accusation involving Indiana sex crimes, learn how consent can be expressed, behavior that does not constitute consent under the law, and how the Indiana Romeo and Juliet law impacts the legal concept of consent.

Age of Consent in Indiana: How is Consent Expressed?

Consent can be expressed in a variety of ways, but communication is always a critical aspect. Clearly expressing consent throughout a sexual act will help both partners feel comfortable and safe. Planned Parenthood breaks down the meaning of consent as having five components:

  • Freely given
  • Reversible
  • Informed
  • Enthusiastic
  • Specific

With this in mind, you can better understand what consent looks like by reviewing the examples below:

  • Your partner says “yes” when asked to have sex or try a different sexual act
  • Asking your partner permission before changing the type of sexual activity
  • Offering your partner positive feedback when you feel comfortable with a sexual act
  • Telling your partner it’s okay to stop at any time
  • Checking in to see if your partner is still okay with an activity

Further, you should also evaluate your partner’s body language and other physical cues to ensure his or her comfort level. And keep in mind that physiological responses such as an erection or lubrication are involuntary and do not always indicate consent.

As you can see, giving consent is not a one-time deal. You must continually ensure your partner is on the same page as you because he or she may revoke consent at any time period even if you are in a long-term relationship or married, you must not engage in sexual acts or change the type of activity unless you and your partner both consent. And remember, when it comes to the age of consent in Indiana if the victim is under the age of 16, it does not matter whether or not consent was given; it could be a violation of the age of consent law in Indiana.

What Is not Consent?

Indiana sex crimes are serious offenses that can have long-lasting consequences if you are convicted. Having non-consensual sex could land you in jail and on the Indiana Sex Offender Registry. However, lack of consent doesn’t always require saying “no,” “stop,” or “I don’t want to do this.” While these are straightforward examples of non-consent, there are other ways a person can express their dissent. Below are examples of where there is a lack of consent:

  • Refusing to take “no” for an answer
  • Having sex or engaging in sexual activity with someone under the age of 16
  • Proceeding with sexual activity despite your partner looking upset or uncomfortable
  • Assuming you have consent to engage in a sexual act because your partner consented to it in the past
  • Engaging in sexual activity with someone who is intoxicated, impaired, or otherwise incapacitated
  • Assuming a person wants to engage in sexual activity because of the clothing the person is wearing or because the person is flirting, kissing, or engaging in other similar activity

There is also a lack of consent if you use intimidation or threats, even if the person says “yes.” If a person says “yes” out of fear, that is coercion or duress, not consent. You should be extremely clear about what the other person wants and is willing to do by obtaining explicit, freely given consent.

Age of Consent in Indiana: Romeo and Juliet Law

Although the age of consent in Indiana is 16, Indiana law makes allowances for younger persons in certain cases. Under the Indiana Romeo and Juliet law, 14- and 15-year-olds can legally consent to sex with their peers under certain conditions.

Prior to the passage of this law, high school students under the age of 16 in dating relationships risked being charged with a sex crime and having to register as sex offenders for participating in sexual activities with their peers. For instance, if a high school freshman engaged in sexual activity with a junior, the junior could be accused of statutory rape under Indiana Code § 35-42-4-9. If the freshman’s parents pressed charges—even if the freshman did not wish to do so—the junior could face allegations that he or she committed the offense of sexual misconduct with a minor. If the allegations were proved, the junior could be committed to a juvenile facility and/or required to register as a sex offender.

To combat this devastating effect, the Indiana General Assembly passed the Indiana Romeo and Juliet law, which allows juveniles who are 14 and 15 years old to give legal consent to sex in certain cases and provides legal defenses for defendants charged with sexual misconduct with a minor.

Under the Indiana Romeo and Juliet law, a person may legally have consensual sex with a 14- or 15-year-old if all of the following elements apply:

  • The person is no more than 4 years older than the victim
  • Both parties are in a dating relationship or ongoing personal relationship
  • The sexual act was not committed by using or threatening to use deadly force
  • The sexual act was not committed while armed with a deadly weapon
  • The sexual act did not result in serious bodily injury
  • The sexual act was not committed as the result of drugging the other person without his or her knowledge or knowing the victim was drugged without their knowledge
  • The sexual act was not committed by a person with substantial influence or in a position of authority over the victim
  • The person does not have a record of another sex offense
  • The person is not promoting prostitution

If the older person does not meet all of the above requirements, he or she may be charged with sexual misconduct with a minor (statutory rape). This crime occurs when a person at least 18 years old knowingly or intentionally performs or submits to sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct with a child who is less than age 16. If convicted of this Level 5 felony, the person could be sentenced to one to six years in prison and/or ordered to pay a fine of up to $10,000.

Consequences of Violating the Age of Consent in Indiana

To be safe, a good rule of thumb is no consent, no sex. Having sex with someone who is legally incapable of giving consent based on the age of consent in Indiana, forced to have sex against their will, or otherwise engaged in nonconsensual sexual activity could expose you to charges for one or more Indiana sex crimes, from rape to child molestation. These accusations could tarnish your personal and professional life and your reputation.

If you are ultimately convicted of a sex crime, especially one involving the age of consent in Indiana, you may be required to register in the Indiana sex offender database and consequently suffer a host of challenges in your life. Inclusion on the sex offender registry can pose obstacles to employment, housing, financial aid, relationships, and recreational activities, in addition to utter humiliation before friends and family. Even if your profile is later removed from the state’s sex offender database, your peers and colleagues will still remember your past.

Call Keffer Hirschauer LLP for Powerhouse Defense Against Your Sex Crime Charges

Few things in life are more important than your freedom and future, and a sex crime allegation alone has the power to derail the life you worked so hard building. Understanding Indiana law on consent is a significant part of protecting that future.

But if you’ve been accused of a sex crime based on the age of consent in Indiana, you need an experienced Indianapolis sex crimes attorney who will fight to prevent that outcome from happening. As former deputy prosecutors, the criminal defense attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP have a keen understanding of how sex crimes are prosecuted and can formulate fierce defense strategies that counteract the prosecution’s anticipated attacks. For a consultation on how we can help you, schedule your consultation using our online contact form, or call (317) 857-0160.

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