Berlin Defense is seeing a growing number of second-degree rape cases where an employee of a school district is having sex with a student over the age of 16. The student is above the age of consent, but the existence of an authority relationship makes it illegal—even if the employee is a coach or member of the school’s support staff instead of a teacher.

Sexual intercourse is second-degree rape when it involves a person over the age of 16 who is in custody, in jail, or on probation and a corrections or law enforcement officer.

Sexual intercourse is considered second-degree rape when a person between the ages of 16 and 19 is in the custody of state, federal, or tribal government and has sex with a foster parent or foster parent applicant.

Other types of consensual sexual activity involving persons between the ages of 16 and 18 can be considered second-degree rape when one of the parties is responsible for the minor’s health, safety, or welfare. This could include:

  • Parents or legal guardians
  • Any other adult residing in the home of the child
  • An owner, operator, or employee of a childcare facility
  • An agent or employee of a public or private residential home, institution, facility, or day treatment program

When the alleged victim is 14 or younger and the defendant is 18 or older, the charge will be first-degree rape. Consent and/or the existence of an authority relationship are not factors in this type of case.

Close-in-Age Exemptions Protect Some Types of High School Romances

Oklahoma, like many other states, has a close-in-age exemption for sexual activity involving minors. Often referred to as the “Romeo and Juliet” law, this allows for consensual sexual activity between minors of similar ages. If one party is over 14 but under age 16, the activity is legal as long as their partner is under age 18. If the victim is under 14, the defendant could be charged with first-degree rape.

The “Romeo and Juliet” exemption is intended to protect high school romances, but it’s important to note that many 18-year-olds are still in high school. A senior dating a freshman could face second-degree rape charges if the relationship continues past their 18th birthday.

Transmitting Sexually Oriented Material Is Considered a Separate Offense

Oklahoma law makes any electronic sexual communication with a minor a felony criminal offense—even when you’re communicating about lawful sexual conduct. Sending nudes or sexting a person under the age of 18 is a crime, even if it’s a consenting relationship or if no actual sexual intercourse or physical conduct is involved. 

At Berlin Defense, we often see cases of this nature where a college-age male has sent his girlfriend from high school pictures of his penis. The young man has no idea why he’s being charged with transmitting sexually oriented material to a minor—or what the impact of a sex crime could be on his future.

The Law Is Complicated, But We’re Here to Help

As you can see, age of consent laws are more complex than they first appear. When a person turns 16, they are not automatically allowed to give legal consent for all types of sexual activity.

It’s vital that you understand what’s at stake when you’re being charged with a sex crime. Not only are you facing time behind bars, you’re risking damage to your reputation, your finances, and your relationships with your loved ones. You can’t afford to take any chances by representing yourself or hiring a general criminal defense attorney instead of a lawyer who focuses on sex crimes. Speak with experienced Tulsa sex crimes defense lawyer Lee Berlin today.

Lee Berlin
Dedicated to defending clients accused of domestic violence, sex & violent crimes throughout eastern Oklahoma.