Each state in the United States has laws that dictate at what age an individual is able to legally consent to sex, referred to as age of consent laws. If an individual engages in sexual conduct with an individual who is below the age of consent, they are guilty of statutory rape.
This is because, pursuant to the age of consent laws, the defendant engaged in sexual conduct with an individual who could not possibly have consented to the act. In addition, because rape is defined as sexual conduct without consent, the defendant is guilty of a form of rape.
Are There Age of Consent Differences Between Males and Females?
In numerous states, the age of consent for males and females may be different. In certain states, there may be an exception to the age of consent law if the parties involved are close in age, typically with a 2 or 3 year age difference.
In most of the states, the punishment for engaging in this conduct is harsher if one of the parties is significantly older than the other. It is important to note that if both parties are above the age of consent, any age difference between them is irrelevant.
There are some states which distinguish between sexual conduct between a male and a female and sexual conduct between two males or two females. In many states, any homosexual conduct was illegal until recent years, regardless of the individuals’ ages.
In other states, the age of consent for that type of conduct is higher, but the conduct itself is not altogether illegal.
Is There an Age of Consent for Homosexual Conduct?
In recent years, the United States Supreme Court has held that laws that prohibit consensual, private, sexual conduct, which includes homosexual conduct, between adults as unconstitutional and not enforceable by any state. Some states, however, still have these laws on their books.
Because of this, it may be unclear exactly what the age of consent for homosexual acts is in these states. It is likely that a state court, assuming that the court did not attempt to enforce a law which is unconstitutional, would simply default to the age of consent for heterosexual intercourse in that state. However, this is not a certainty.
What are the Ages of Consent by State?
As previously discussed, the ages of consent vary by state. The following chart provides the age of consent for each state and any acceptable difference between those ages.
|State||Age of Consent||Acceptable Differences Between Ages|
What is the Age of Consent for Sex in the U.S. Military?
For a member of the United States military, their conduct is governed by the laws of the military, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). For military members, the offense of rape can be and has been punished by death.
For members of the military, the age of consent is sixteen years of age. Any member of the military who engages in sexual conduct with an individual under the age of sixteen is, therefore, committing a crime.
What if the Parties Are Close in Age?
In contrast to many state laws, the UCMJ does not contain any provisions which make exceptions for parties that are close to the same age. Therefore, for example, if a service member who is 18 years of age has sex with another individual who is fifteen years of age, it is a crime whether or not the younger individual consents.
Is There a Legal Defense?
The UCMJ will allow the defense of mistake of fact in these types of cases. If the victim is, in fact, over the age of twelve, and the offender reasonably believed that they were sixteen years of age or older, this fact is a valid defense and the service member will not face punishment.
What is the Age of Consent for Sex in Pennsylvania?
The age of consent for sexual relations in the State of Pennsylvania is sixteen years of age. This age of consent applies to males and females as well as to heterosexual and homosexual conduct.
Similar to other states, the age of consent laws in Pennsylvania make allowances for adolescents who are under the age of consent but are close to the same age. Anyone between the ages of thirteen and sixteen may consent to have sexual relations with anyone else who is no more than four years older.
The age of consent laws in Pennsylvania carry fairly severe penalties. More severe violations may result in a prison term of up to twenty years.
What Should I Do if I Am Falsely Accused of Sexual Assault?
False rape claims occur when individuals report rape when one did not take place. In most of these types of cases, an individual intentionally lies about being the victim of a sexual assault or a rape.
In some cases, an individual may file a false police report claiming rape or sexual assault, which creates a risk that in innocent individual will be criminally prosecuted. Filing a false report may be a crime itself, depending upon the intent of the individual who makes the report.
It is important to remember that an individual who is charged with a crime has the right to an attorney. If an individual is arrested for a charge of sexual assault or rape that they did not commit, they should not say anything and consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
An individual does not have to provide information to the police and they can exercise their right to remain silent. Even if an individual knows they are innocent, they should remain silent and allow their attorney to do the talking.
If law enforcement determines that a false claim was filed, they will determine whether or not to charge the accuser with filing a false report.
Should I Seek Legal Help?
If you have been accused of statutory rape or any other crime related to sexual assault in Pennsylvania, you should contact a Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer immediately.
It may also be helpful to consult with a lawyer if you are currently in a relationship that you believe may be in violation of the age of consent laws in your state. This can help you determine what steps you need to take to avoid prosecution and being required to register as a sex offender.