In Tennessee, the age of consent is 18. This is the age at which a person can consent to sex with an adult. If both partners are over 18, any age difference between them is irrelevant. However, if one of them is under the age of 18, then Tennessee classifies that sex as statutory rape because the partner under 18 is considered incapable of consent.
The age of consent law in Tennessee currently only applies to heterosexual conduct. Tennessee has laws on the books which make homosexual conduct, regardless of the ages of the actors, illegal. However, the Supreme Court recently declared such laws, as applied to consenting adults in private settings, unconstitutional. Since it is unconstitutional to ban homosexual conduct, it is unclear exactly what Tennessee’s age of consent is for homosexual conduct because the state has yet to modify its age of consent law. Thus, it is unclear if any homosexual conduct qualifies as statutory rape, even sodomy.
Like many other states, Tennessee makes some exceptions to its age of consent when the actors are within a certain age range, and close to the same age. In general, a person over the age of 13 can legally consent to sex with someone who is less than 4 years older.
The crime of statutory rape in Tennessee is committed when the offender has sex with a person between the ages of 13 and 18, and the offender is at least 4 years older. It is classified as a Class E felony, and the punishment for this crime is 1 to 6 years in prison. If there are larger age differences between the offender and the minor, the punishments become more severe, as the crime may be classified as a Class D felony.
Due to the serious consequences of such a conviction, it is in your best interests to contact a Tennessee criminal lawyer if you have been accused of this crime. A criminal defense lawyer in Tennessee can help you figure out what kinds of defenses you can raise, since consent is not a valid defense in this situation, and they can work to get you a lower sentence than if you were to just plead guilty right away.