For example, in Iowa a person may consent to sex at age 14 provided their partner is no more than 48 months older. Most statutory rape laws exist to punish an adult who takes sexual advantage of a minor, not to punish two people close in age who have consensual sex.
This means an adult who is only a couple of years older than the minor may not be charged with statutory rape or be punished as harshly as a much older adult. These close-in-age exemption laws, sometimes known as Romeo and Juliet laws, may reduce the severity of the offense from a felony to a misdemeanor; reduce the penalty to a fine, probation or community service; and eliminate the requirement that the convicted adult register as a sex offender.
Laws on Underage Dating
Punishment depends on state law. For example, in New Jersey, the age of consent is 16, but individuals who are 13 or older may legally engage in sexual activity if their partner is less than four years older than they are. In California, it's a misdemeanor to have sex with someone younger than 18 if the offender is less than three years older, while someone more than three years older could be charged with a felony.
Even for states with a single age of consent, there may be exceptions. In New Jersey, for example, the general age of consent is However, a young adult between the age of 16 and 18 cannot give consent to engaging in sexual intercourse with someone who has supervisory or disciplinary power over the young person.
That person might be a teacher, probation officer, law enforcement official, hospital worker, counselor or a youth group leader. Any of these people will have committed a crime when they engage in sexual conduct with an individual they have authority over, even if that person is above the age of consent. Claire is a qualified lawyer and specialized in family law before becoming a full-time writer.
Tip If underage dating involves sexual intercourse, state statutory rape laws apply. Ohio Laws for a Minor Dating an Adult. Upon his release from prison, Dixon enrolled at Hampton University in Virginia with a football scholarship. The Dixon case is just one in a long line of similar legal battles teens have faced in the last decade.
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A Hot Topic Among Teens The recent discovery that year-old actress Jamie Lynn Spears, the sister of pop star Britney Spears, became pregnant by her year-old boyfriend has again turned consensual sex among teens into a hotly contested issue. Parents, particularly those with teenage daughters, certainly have cause for concern. Research shows that teenage girls tend to have their first sexual experience with male partners who are three or more years older. But do these dangers warrant laws that put young people in prison?
Romeo and Juliet Make a Comeback Statutory rape is defined by the FBI as non-forcible sexual intercourse with a person who is younger than the statutory age of consent.
Statutory Rape: The Age of Consent | LegalMatch Law Library
The statutory rape laws vary greatly from state to state, with more than half of the states setting the legal age of consent at 16 other states range from 14 to For the most part, there is no single age at which a person can consent to sexual activity. Only 12 states set a specific age ranging from 16 to 18 , while in the majority of states, the age of consent depends on multiple factors, including the ages of each partner and the number of years between them.
The purpose behind most statutory rape laws is to punish grown adults who take sexual advantage of a minor. The following are just a few examples of Romeo and Juliet laws currently in place in the United States:. Exceptions and Other Considerations In addition to Romeo and Juliet laws, some states have specific exemptions when both parties to the sexual act are minors, or the person to be charged is legally married to the minor.
Colorado law on dating minors
However, there are still restrictions in some states about the type of sexual activity that is permissible, such as oral sex and sodomy, as well as restrictions on relationships involving a minor and a person of authority, including teachers, coaches, or tutors. All states have special provisions if any physical force was used or serious physical injury resulted.
Until recently, statutory rape laws applied only to females, ignoring situations involving sex between an adult female and underage male. Today, most laws are gender neutral, and a number of women in authority positions such as Mary Kay Letourneau, Debra Lafave, Pamela Rogers Turner, and Pamela Smart have been prosecuted for engaging in sexual relationships with younger males.
Does the Punishment Fit the Crime? While many states have strict statutory rape laws on the books, prosecutors have been inconsistent in enforcing them, says Mark Chaffin, a researcher with the National Center on the Sexual Behavior of Youth. One particularly shocking case drew international attention when year-old Georgia resident, Genarlow Wilson, was charged with aggravated child molestation and sentenced to 10 years in prison for having consensual oral sex with a year-old girl.
Is it illegal for an adult to date a minor if there is no sexual activity involved?
Georgia law, which has since been changed to classify this act as a misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of one year in prison, also required Wilson to register as a sex offender when he was released. Are Statutory Rape Laws Outdated?
Statutory rape laws are based on the premise that although young girls may want to have sex, they may not have enough experience or discernment to make a mature, informed decision. The laws are designed to protect young people who have less information and power than their and-over counterparts.