The question in the title of this post was prompted by a user question on our Oklahoma law forum. He wanted to know if there is any technicality that protects a person if he or she is involved in a sexual relationship with a person who says he or she is of legal age to consent, but in actuality is too young to provide legal consent.
The user asked: "Is there a loophole in Oklahoma Law if the girl you just had sex with promised you that she was 16. Mabye she told everyone at the party she was 16 or was even driving a car, which one would assume would be proof that she was that age. It seems that your 'intent' was not to have sex with an underage girl, and intent is an important factor in criminal blame. Would you still be on the hook if all evidence indicated she was not jail bait?" It is a reasonable question.
Age of Consent and Statutory Rape Laws
After all, if a person tells someone he or she is at least 16, the age of consent in Oklahoma, and even provides evidence to the fact, it seems logical that the person duped by the lie would not be held liable for an act perpetrated by another's deception.
Unfortunately for several people on the Oklahoma Sex Offender Registry, there is no loophole that protects people from criminal prosecution for engaging in sex with a minor who said he or she was of age. In Oklahoma, statutory rape is a strict liability crime. That means that if the act occurred, a crime occurred.
The perpetrator's belief that he or she was not doing anything wrong and the "victim's" deception and consent are not mitigating factors. A 2010 CNN article about a teen sex offender in Oklahoma explains how this strict liability can easily snare a person.
According to the article, 16-year-old Ricky Blackman met a girl at a teen club in Iowa, where he lived at the time. The girl told Blackman she was 15, and the age of consent in Iowa was 14. The two dated for a while, but then the girl ran away from home. When police came looking for her, they questioned Blackman who admitted that he had sex with the girl twice. Only then did they tell him that she was only 13.
Because of strict liability, he was charged with statutory rape and forced to register as a sex offender in Iowa. Hoping to avoid the stigma of his arrest and charge, the Blackman family moved to Oklahoma. Even though his record was expunged in Iowa, Oklahoma law at the time forced him to continue registering as a Level 3 sex offender.
Unfortunately for Blackman, he not only was taken in by a girl who lied about her age, but also did not understand that it is never advisable to talk to police without an attorney. For many people, statutory rape as a strict liability law seems to defy logic.
However, there is no loophole to protect anyone from deception. If you are charged with statutory rape, you face a lifetime on the Oklahoma Sex Offender Registry as a Level 3 sex offender.
What to Do If You Face Charges of Statutory Rape
If police question you about your involvement with an underage person--even if you believe that person to be at least 16--invoke your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and call a sex crime defense lawyer as quickly as possible. Your attempt to "clear things up" without the help of an attorney could leave you branded as a sex offender for life.
For more information on the legal age of consent in Oklahoma check out this resource