What Does Consent Mean in the State of Utah?
Consent is the voluntary agreement by a person of sufficient age or who possesses the required mental capacity and is not under duress or coercion but has knowledge and understanding of the term. Consent is an agreement to participate in a sexual activity. Without consent, sexual activity is sexual assault or rape.
Consent to a sexual activity must be freely given (a choice made without manipulation, pressure or while you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol), and must be reversible—i.e, you can change your mind at any time—even during sexual intercourse. Consent laws in Utah are much the same as consent laws in most states, in that consent depends on age, state of mind, and must be freely given.
Consent involves being informed and is specific. Agreeing to “make out” does not mean you have agreed to sexual intercourse. Consent is never indicated by past behavior, by where you go, or by what you wear. This means that wearing a short skirt is in no way consenting to have sexual intercourse. Having sex with an individual once does not mean the person automatically consents another time. Being at a party or a bar does not mean you are consenting to any type of sexual activity.
Consent is not implied by silence. It needs to be very clear that a person consents to sexual activity—regardless of whether it is the first time or the hundredth time. People who are drunk, high, or passed out cannot consent to sex. Minors cannot consent to sex with adults. There is an age of sexual consent in each state—this is how old an individual must be to be considered legally capable of consenting to sex.
What are the Consent Laws in Utah?
A person who engages in unlawful sexual conduct with a minor could find themselves being charged with statutory rape—a Class A misdemeanor or a third-degree felony. A third-degree felony conviction can result in a term of imprisonment for up to five years, while a Class A misdemeanor conviction can result in up to a year in jail. There is a marital exemption for statutory rape or unlawful sexual conduct with a 15-year-old or 16-year-old.
Under this marital exemption, a husband and wife are legally allowed to have consensual sex, even if their ages would prohibit the act if they were not married. For instance, a man who is 25 could not legally have sex with a 16-year-old female, because she is not legally of age to give consent for sexual activity. If, however, the couple is married—with the parent’s permission—then the man would not be breaking the law by having consensual sex with his wife. Of course, spousal rape applies no matter the ages of the spouses.
What Affects the Ability to Consent?
An individual’s capacity to consent to sexual activity can be based on the following factors:
- Age (determined by the individual states)
- Whether the person has a developmental disability
- Whether the person has a physical disability that can cause helplessness
- The relationship between the two individuals
- Whether the person was sleeping, sedated, unconscious, or suffering from physical trauma
- Whether the individual is considered a vulnerable adult (i.e., elderly or ill)
What is the Age of Consent in Utah?
The age of consent in the state of Utah is 18. There are exceptions to this; a minor who is 14 or 15 can consent to having sex with a person that is less than four years older. In other words, a 15-year-old girl can legally consent to sexual activity with a 17-year-old boy. Any minor who is under the age of 14 cannot legally consent to having sex, therefore, having sex with a minor who is under the age of 14 is a serious criminal offense in the state of Utah.
How Does Consent Affect a Sexual Assault Case or Charge?
Consent in Utah will determine whether you are charged with sexual assault. The primary defense for an individual charged with sexual assault is consent—if the alleged victim consented to the act, then no sexual assault occurred. This defense is not possible if the alleged victim is a minor or an otherwise vulnerable person who is unable to consent to sexual activity.
How We Can Help Explain the Consent Laws in Utah
An experienced Conyers & Nix attorney can comprehensively explain consent laws in Utah while defending you against charges that center around consent or lack or consent. We treat each and every client with respect, while advocating zealously for the best possible outcome. We strive to achieve each clients’ goals through effective advocacy, a thorough examination of evidence, and meticulous preparation of your case from start to finish. We will help you through the difficulties that accompany criminal charges in the state of Utah by being transparent and honest with you while also allaying your worries through best and worst-case scenarios. Kate Conyers and Jesse Nix are a formidable legal team with extensive experience helping people charged with a wide array of criminal charges. We believe we can be the advocate in your corner during your time of need—contact Conyers & Nix today.