Age of consent laws have been part of the Western legal system for hundreds of years. While these laws can seem difficult to navigate at times, it’s still extremely important that all Americans understand how these laws work so they stay out of any legal trouble.
In this article, we’ll go over what age of consent means and what the legal terms for it are. So keep on reading to learn more.
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What Is the Age of Consent?
The age of consent refers to the legally defined age at which a person has the capacity to consent to sexual intercourse. Having sexual intercourse with someone who is under the specified age can lead to criminal charges of sexual assault or statutory rape.
Other legal terms for age of consent include “majority” and “legal age.”
It doesn’t matter if you know the person’s age or what age they tell you. If you have sexual relations with someone under the legal age, you can face serious legal consequences.
Navigating Age of Consent Laws
Every state has a statutory rape law in some form. Statutory rape is when an adult has sex with someone who is younger than the age of consent.
The legal age is not constant in the United States. It varies from state to state but the age of consent is usually between sixteen and eighteen years old.
Many state laws will also specify a minimum age of the perpetrator or age difference between the victim and the offender. For example, the punishment can different if the offender and victim are two years apart as opposed to six years apart in age.
Even if the victim consents to intercourse and the offender think they are over the age of consent, they can still be punished.
What Is Consent?
Consent is not an easy word to define and can differ slightly on a case-by-case basis. This is done by examining the circumstances and facts of the case.
In some instances, however, consent is never given. This can happen when a person’s judgment is impaired by drugs or alcohol or they’re unconscious or asleep.
Close in Age Exemption Laws
There are some legal cases in which two people are dating and are very close in age but only one partner is over the age of consent. The goal of the justice system here isn’t to punish the older person or put them on a sex offender registry.
There are “Romeo and Juliet” laws meant for situations like this. This law applies to young people who are close in age but technically break these laws.
For example, in Texas, a person who is over 17 years old can have consensual sex with someone who is three years younger than them without penalty.
In some states, a situation like this is a mitigating factor for the older person but isn’t a full defense.
What if Someone Lies About Their Age?
A common defense by offenders in this situation is that they didn’t know the victim’s age or the victim said they were older than they really were. This is usually considered a weak defense and will be of little to no help to the offender.
Most states are very strict when it comes to statutory rape. Even if you met the victim in a bar and they showed you a fake ID with a fake age, you could still be convicted of committing statutory rape if you have intercourse with that person.
Some states will be more lenient than others in this kind of situation. But most will still prosecute the offender to the full extent of the law.
With that said, if you’re accused of statutory rape it’s critical that you higher statutory rape lawyers. You have a right to defend yourself in court and give your side of the story.
Penalties for Violating the Age of Consent
Statutory rape penalties can be very severe. Sexual offenders tend to receive little sympathy from judges and juries.
If you’ve been falsely accused of statutory rape then you need to contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
If you’re found guilty of statutory rape, you could face decades in jail, large fines, and a criminal record that won’t be cleared. You’ll also likely end up on a sexual offender registry for life.
Being labeled a sex offender can carry a heavy social stigma that can negatively impact you for the rest of your life. Sexual offenders find it hard to find a job, live in certain communities, and start families.
Can You Be Accused of Statutory Rape Years After it Happened?
In many states, there’s no statute of limitations for criminal sexual misconduct. This includes rape and legal age laws. Some sexual abuse charges need to be filed within a certain number of years.
The Importance of Knowing About Age of Consent
Hopefully, after reading about age of consent laws, you understand how serious this matter can be. It’s important that you make sure that you’re aware of your state’s laws and the state’s legal age. By knowing this information, it will be easier for you to stay out of legal trouble and protect yourself.
And if you ever find yourself in trouble with these kinds of laws, make sure that you contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible.
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