Most states define incest as "sexual relations with a close family member." Incest is illegal in all states under sex crime laws and can lead to severe legal penalties. In most states, a "close family member" usually includes a person’s:

  • Father
  • Mother
  • Brother
  • Sister
  • Grandfather or Grandmother
  • Aunt/Uncle
  • Niece or Nephew

Some states also include 1st cousins under incest offenses. However, this may vary by state and according to the nature of the person’s relationship and upbringing. The exact details of incest laws may vary by state. For instance, some states may only focus on relationships of a parental nature. Other states only criminalize the behavior for certain categories of people, such as those under 18 years old.

What Are the Penalties for Incest Violations?

Legal penalties for incest violations can sometimes be quite severe. These are usually prosecuted in a criminal court and may result in penalties ranging from 5 years in prison (for instance, in Hawaii or Florida) all the way up to 25 years in some states like Kansas, Nebraska, and other states. A few states can impose life imprisonment for incest (Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, and Tennessee)

In addition, in some jurisdictions, three or more convictions for incest can result in the offender being required to register in a sex offender registry.

Are First Cousins Considered "Close Family Members" for Purposes of Incest Law?

Many states classify first cousins may be considered as close family members. Some states even classify "first cousins, once removed" as close relatives and therefore prohibit relations between such relatives. On the other hand, some states (about 20 states) allow marriage between first or second cousins. You may need to consult with attorney for the details of incest law in your state or jurisdiction.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Incest Laws?

As you can see, incest laws can lead to some very serious legal penalties. If you have any legal issues or concerns, you may wish to hire a qualified criminal lawyer in your area who specializes in criminal law. Your attorney can provide you with legal guidance and advice on your situation. Also, if you are being summoned for an appearance in court, your attorney can represent you during the court sessions.