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An Overview of Age of Consent Law

This content contains sensitive subject matter related to legal defense for crimes of a sexual nature.

Most states consider 18 to be the age of majority, meaning the law views that person as an adult who has the capacity to make adult decisions, such as consenting to sex. State laws can be very strict about sex between a legal adult and someone underage. Even in a consensual relationship, an adult can be charged with statutory rape for having sexual relations with someone below the legal age of consent.

The age of consent laws and the age of majority varies from state to state. If you are in a borderline situation or have questions about the legal status of a relationship, it is best to consult a legal expert in your area.

Consent is not a defense to statutory rape charges. There is a difference between verbal consent and legal consent. Individuals under the age of consent cannot legally consent to sex because of their age.

Even if there is consensual sexual activity or the minor initiates sexual contact, this is not considered legalconsent. Someone can be charged with statutory rape even if the minor does not want to press charges or if the parents are okay with the relationship.

Dating vs. Having Sex

In general, there is no law against dating a minor if there is no sexual activity or sexual relationship. However, intercourse or other sexual contact can be against the law if one of the people involved is below the age of consent. For example, a 21-year-old and a 16-year-old may legally be able to see a movie, hold hands, or kiss. However, if there is any sexual contact, including touching of the genitals or buttocks, it may be considered a sex offense.

Sexual contact is not limited to intercourse. Depending on the state, it may be considered lewd and lascivious behavior, child sexual assault, or sexual abuse if there is sexual contact or touching someone for gratification if the person is underage.

The age of consent varies by state. In all states in the U.S., the age of consent is generally between 16 and 18. However, statutory rape charges may also depend on the age difference between the people involved. Most states have passed “Romeo and Juliet laws” protecting young people of similar ages. In these states, sex with someone under the minimum age of consent is not a sex crime if they are close enough in age to the older person.

There may also be an exception to statutory rape laws when the people involved are married. However, states may have child marriage laws that limit the age at which a person can get legally married.

The following are examples of various states’ laws regarding statutory rape and the age of consent.

The age of consent in California is 18 years old. Statutory rape criminal charges depend on the ages of the people involved. If the two people are not more than 3 years apart, having sex with a minor is a misdemeanor. If the age difference between the defendant and the minor child is over 3 years, underage sex could be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Statutory rape with someone aged 14 or younger is a registerable offense. There is no close-in-age exemption for statutory rape under criminal law in California.

In Pennsylvania, the age of consent is 16 years old. Criminal statutory sexual assault involves a defendant having sexual intercourse with a person who is under the age of 16 when the defendant is four or more years older. If the defendant is four or more years older, statutory sexual assault is a felony in the 2nd degree. If the defendant is 11 years or more older, underage sexual acts are a felony in the first degree.

In Pennsylvania, it would be legal for a 17-year-old to date an 18-year-old and consent to sex. However, it is statutory sexual assault for a 19-year-old to have sex with a 15-year-old.

The age of consent in Texas is 17 years old. Sex with anyone aged 16 or younger is considered statutory rape when the age difference is more than 3 years. These Romeo and Juliet laws allow for sex between young people when their ages are not more than 3 years apart.

In Texas, it would be legal for a 17-year-old to have sex with a 20-year-old. However, it is considered rape for a 15-year-old to have sex with a 19-year-old.

In Florida, the age of consent can be complicated. Teenagers aged 16 can consent to have sex with anyone up to the age of 23. However, a person 24 years old or older who engages in sexual conduct with a person 16 years of age commits sexual battery, a 2nd-degree felony.

What Are the Penalties for Statutory Rape?

Also called unlawful sex with a minor, sex with a minor can be charged as a serious sex crime. Statutory rape may be a felony criminal offense, with penalties including jail time and fines. In some cases, the defendant must register as a sex offender. Sexual offenses can ruin your reputation and can impact your ability to find a job. If you are accused of sexual exploitation of a minor, get legal advice about your defense options from a sex crime defense lawyer.

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