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Washington Age of Consent

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What Is the Age of Consent for Sex in Washington?

In Washington State, the age of consent for sex is 16 years old. At this age, a person can consent to sex with any adult, regardless of the age difference between them. Washington’s age of consent laws apply to both heterosexual and homosexual conduct.

Exception for Minors

Most states allow minors to consent to sex with a person who is close in age to them—even if they are below the age of consent. Washington is one of those states, but its system is complex because there are specific guidelines for different age groups. While this theoretically makes greater allowances for adolescents to engage in consensual, non-exploitative sexual relations, it is also more difficult to tell when sexual conduct is legal, and when it is not.

In Washington, a minor as young as 11 can consent to sex with someone, as long as that person is 2 years older or less. Minors who are 12 to 13 years old can consent to sex with someone who is 3 years older or less. And lastly, minors aged 14 or 15 can consent to sex with a person who is 4 years older or less.

Washington’s Strict Penalties

While some may find it questionable that any 11-year-old is mature enough to give genuine consent to sex (which necessarily requires a certain level of emotional maturity, and a reasonable understanding of the possible consequences), Washington allows this legally. However, Washington imposes fairly stiff penalties for violation of its age of consent laws. Thus, there must be valid consent given.

For example, if someone in Washington has sex with a person under the age of 12, and is more than 2 years older (even by a day), they could face life in prison. The same applies to someone who violates the 3-year limit for sex with a minor aged 12 or 13. With minors who are older, but still under the age of consent, the sentences become slightly more lenient. If someone violates the 4-year limit for sex with a minor aged 14 or 15, they can face up to 5 years in prison.

Consulting an Attorney

If you are accused of statutory rape or are a victim of rape, then a criminal lawyer can help you. An experienced Washington lawyer can either clear your name or help you seek legal recourse. He can help you file the appropriate paperwork in court and speak on your behalf.

Photo of page author Mabel Yee

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 12-05-2017 10:12 PM PST

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