Statutory rape occurs when a person over the age of consent engages in sexual intercourse with someone under the statutory age of consent, also known as a minor. 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.
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.
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Last Modified: 12-05-2017 10:16 PM PSTLaw Library Disclaimer
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