The age of consent for sexual conduct in Vermont is 16 years old. Vermont is among the very few states with a single age of consent. Vermont also has what is referred to as a "close-in-age" law and a Romeo and Juliet exception. However, notwithstanding of these provisions, violating the age in consent laws in Vermont may expose the accused to allegations of statutory rape.
What Are Close-In-Age-Laws?
The majority of states make some allowances in age of consent laws for adolescents who are "close-in-age," which means exactly how it sounds. Where minors are close to the same age, the law recognizes that these relationships are not exploitative, and thus not the type of thing which age of consent laws are designed to prevent. In most states, adolescents who are below the age of consent, but are older than some other age of legal capacity, typically around 14, they are deemed to be able to consent to sexual with each other if they are close enough in age. The age range varies by state, but typically hovers within 3 or 4 years.
Romeo and Juliet Exception
There is a common misunderstanding that close in age laws apply across the board, meaning even if one partner is below the age of consent, say 14, and the other partner is not, say 18, the the law will save the other partner from criminal liability simply because they are both teenagers. In the example above, the older partner may still face criminal prosecution. There is, however, one exception. The "Romeo and Juliet" exception makes consensual, sexual conduct between a 15 year old minor and a partner who is younger than 19. Essentially, there is a one year leeway in the age of consent laws. It should be well understood, however, that neither close-in-age laws or the "Romeo and Juliet" exception apply where there is a partner below the age of 15 and one who has reached the age of majority, 18.
Are There Defenses To Statutory Rape?
Not really. Statutory rape is typically considered a strict liability offense. This means that even if the defendant made a good faith, reasonable mistake or was even deceived as to the victims age, they can still be found criminally liable.
Should I Seek Legal Advice?
If you believe you have violated Vermont's age of consent laws, you should seek legal advice immediately. In nearly every state, statutory rape is a felony that carries serious criminal and civil consequences. A criminal defense lawyer will be able to explain your options and advocate zealously on your behalf.