Statutory Rape: The Age of Consent

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What Is Statutory Rape?

Statutory rape occurs when a person over the age of consent engages in sexual intercourse with someone under the statutory age of consent. In most states, the age of consent has been arbitrarily designated by statute. However, this age of consent varies widely from state to state. Statutory rape is a strict liability crime, meaning that the consent of the younger person or mistake about their age is not a defense.

What Is the Age of Consent?

Federal law makes it criminal to engage in a sexual act with another person who is between the age of 12 and 16 if they are at least four years younger than you. Each state takes a different approach as the age of consent has ranged from 10 to 18. Some states, such as California and New York, set an age at which all sexual intercourse is considered statutory rape. For example, a state might set the age of consent at 18. In this hypothetical state, two seventeen year olds who had consensual sex could both theoretically be convicted of statutory rape.  

Other states imply a different method which, like the federal statute, takes into account the relative ages of both people. In these states, such as Texas, the age of consent is determined by age differentials between the two persons and limited by a minimum age. For example, a state might set a minimum age of 14, but limit consent to partners who are within 3 years of their age. This would allow a sixteen year old to lawfully have sex with a fourteen year old, but make it criminal for an eighteen year old to have sex with that same fourteen year old.

Examples of different state's statutory ages of consent:

If you need a quick guide for each state, a chart is provided below. Be aware that the law may be more complex than the chart shows and that the information given is subject to change.

Age of Consent By State
 
 
 
 
 
State
Age of Consent
Acceptable Differences Between Ages
 
 
 
 
 
Alabama    
 16
2
 
 
Alaska 
16
3
 
 
Arizona    
18
2
 
 
Arkansas 
16
3
 
 
California 
18
0
 
 
Colorado 
17
4
 
 
Connecticut 
16
2
 
 
Delaware 
18
0
 
 
Florida     
18
0
 
 
Georgia
16
0
 
 
Hawaii
16
5
 
 
Idaho
18
0
 
 
Illinois
17
0
 
 
Indiana
16
0
 
 
Iowa
16
4
 
 
Kansas
16
0
 
 
Kentucky
16
0
 
 
Louisiana
17
3
 
 
Maine
16
5
 
 
Maryland
16
4
 
 
Massachusetts
16
0
 
 
Michigan
16
0
 
 
Minnesota
16
2
 
 
Mississippi
16
2
 
 
Missouri
17
0
 
 
Montana
16
0
 
 
Nebraska
16
0
 
 
Nevada
16
0
 
 
New Hampshire
16
0
 
 
New Jersey
16
4
 
 
New Mexico
16
4
 
 
New York
17
0
 
 
North Carolina
16
4
 
 
North Dakota
18
0
 
 
Ohio
16
0
 
 
Oklahoma
16
0
 
 
Oregon
18
3
 
 
Pennsylvania
16
4
 
 
Rhode Island
16
0
 
 
South Carolina
16
0
 
 
South Dakota
16
3
 
 
Tennessee
18
4
 
 
Texas
17
3
 
 
Utah
18
10
 
 
Vermont
16
0
 
 
Virginia
18
0
 
 
Washington
16
2
 
 
West Virginia
16
4
 
 
Wisconsin
18
0
 
 
16
4
 
 

Do I Need a Lawyer If I Have Been Accused of Statutory Rape?

Statutory rape is a serious charge and carries heavy penalties. If you have been accused of statutory rape, you should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. Your attorney will be familiar with your specific state's laws and can help defend you from any charges.

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Last Modified: 02-04-2014 11:38 AM PST

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