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Unlawful sexual activity with a minor is a strict liability crime.
Defendant Michael Trevor Martinez was 19 years old when he had sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old girl. Defendant was charged with unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. Before trial, defendant filed a motion in limine to determine whether he could submit evidence in support of an affirmative defense that the victim represented herself to be 17 years old at the time of the sexual intercourse. Defendant contended that Utah Code Ann. § 76-5-401 did not impose strict liability and that he should therefore be allowed to present evidence that he did not know the victim's age. Defendant argued that if the statute did impose strict liability, it violated due process requirements. The trial court denied defendant’s motion, relying on section 76-2-304.5 of the Utah Code, which excluded the defense of mistake as to the victim’s age in a prosecution for unlawful sexual intercourse. In addition, the trial court determined that neither section 76-2-304.5 nor section 76-5-401 violated due process under either the State or the federal constitution. Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea to unlawful sexual intercourse, subject to an appeal of the trial court's denial of defendant's pre-trial motion. On appeal, the Utah Court of Appeals held that the legislature clearly intended a violation of section 76-5-401 to be a strict liability crime and expressly precluded the defense of mistake as to the victim's age. Certiorari was granted.
1) Did Utah Code Ann. § 76-5-401 impose strict liability?
2) Did Utah Code Ann. § 76-5-401 violate defendant’s due process rights?
The state supreme court held that § 76-5-401 did impose strict liability for the crime of unlawful sexual activity with a minor. Thus, the State did not need to prove that defendant intended to have sexual intercourse with a 14 or 15 year old. Furthermore, defendant's federal due process rights were not violated by imposing strict liability § 76-5-401 as the legislature's determination to prelude the mistake of age defense for sexual activity with a minor 14 or 15 was not so arbitrary as to run afoul of the Constitution. The decision of the court of appeals was affirmed.