Age of sexual consent in the United States

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Age of consent is the age when law considers a person mature enough to agree to having sex. In the United States, the federal age of consent is 16.[1] States have ages between 16 and 18.

Federal law[change | change source]

The Federal government has a legal age of consent of 18. Federal law, however, applies only to sexual acts that involve travel between different states, countries, or on federal property. This makes it a crime to use any form of communication between states to try to get a minor to have sex with an adult. Even if the minor and adult are in the same state, if the communication leaves the state, it is a crime. For example, if both people live in the same state and use an instant messaging program to communicate, and if the server used for the communication is in another state, this is a crime.

It is also a crime for a minor to be taken to a different state to have sex. This could happen if the 16 year old lived in a state that had an age of consent of 18 but traveled to a state where the age limit was 16. If the adult travels to a different state or a different country to have sex with a minor, this is only a federal crime if the minor is under the age of 16. It may still be a local crime if the minor was under the age of consent of the state or nation where the sex happened but it is not a federal crime.

States[change | change source]

Each US state has its own age of consent. State laws set the age of consent at 16, 17 or 18. The most common age is 16.[2]

  • age of consent 16 (32): Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia
  • age of consent 17 (9): Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Wyoming, Louisiana (as of april 1st 2014
  • age of consent 18 (10): Arizona, California, Delaware, Idaho, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin, Florida1

1: In Pennsylvania, the age of consent is 16. If the minor is under the age of 18, the adult can be charged with "Corruption of a Minor". This is a misdemeanor.[3] If the adult is in a position of power (teacher, clergy, or Police for example), this is a felony.[4] Even though the age of consent is 16, it is still a crime until the age of 18. Because of this, Pennsylvania is normally listed as if it had an age of consent of 18.

Some states have exceptions to the law for people below the age of consent if their partner's age is within a specific range. This range is often between 2 and 4 years. Some states allow minors who are below the age of consent to consent to sex with their spouses if they are married, but not to anyone else.

Examples[change | change source]

These are five examples of the age of sexual consent in five U.S. states.

  • Georgia 16, it is a felony for anyone over 18 years of age to have sex with a person beneath 16 years of age punishable by imprisonment not less than one nor more than twenty years if the actor is under 21, but not less than ten nor more than twenty years if the actor is 21 or older. If the actor is under 19 and the victim is over 14 and less than 48 months younger than the actor it is a misdemeanor, not a felony. There is no close in age exception to Georgia's law, although people thirteen and over can consent to sex within legal marriage.[5]
  • Illinois 17, no close in age exemption, although there are exceptions for minors to consent within marriage. With parental consent, parties can marry at age 16.[6]
  • Indiana—16, unless the adult works at the 16 year old's school or has some other authority over the 16 year old, in which it is sexual misconduct with a minor which is a felony, there is an exception allowing people 14 to consent to sex with another partner if the older partner is less than 18. It can also be used as a defense at court if the actor is less than 4 years older than the victim, even if the actor is over 18. A person between the age of 14 and 16 can consent if that person is married or has ever been married. It is a felony for anyone over 18 to have sex with anyone under 16, but there is a more harsh penalty if the victim is beneath 14, because that is considered "child molesting" by Indiana law[7]
  • Wisconsin—18, no close in age exception, but the penalty is far less severe for a person whose victim is 16 or older than one whose victim is under 16, being a class a misdemeanor for a person whose "victim" is over 16, a class c felony for a person whose victim is 15 or younger. Consent is allowed for a person 16 or older but under 18 only to his/her spouse in marriage .[8][9] However, a minor below 16 cannot give consent even to a person he/she is married to. Wisconsin also has an unusual law called "failure to act" which states that a person who is responsible for a child beneath 16 who fails to prevent the child from having sex with someone and is aware that the other person intended to have sex with him is guilty of a Class F felony.
  • Pennsylvania; technically 16, but there is a corruption of minors law which basically makes the age of consent 18 unless both parties are over 16 but under 18.[10]

Military[change | change source]

US Military law lists the age of consent at 16 yrs.[11] When in the United States, state laws also apply. If it is a crime in the state but not a crime in the military, it is still a crime, for example if a member of the military had sex with a 17 year old he was not married to in Wisconsin even though ordinarily it would be legal under military law, he would be prosecuted by the state for breaking the Wisconsin law, as his military status does not take precedence over local law. This applies to military and prisoners of war.

References[change | change source]

  2. "Age Of Consent By State". Retrieved 23 December 2011.
  3. "Corruption of minors - 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 6301". Retrieved 23 December 2011.
  4. "Penalties for Sex Offenses in Pennsylvania Continue to Escalate". 09 November 2010. Retrieved 24 December 2011.

Related pages[change | change source]