Statutory Rape: A Guide to State Laws and Reporting Requirements. Sexual Intercourse with Minors

12/15/2004

States’ statutory rape offenses detail the age at which an individual can legally consent to sexual activity. This section focuses on laws addressing sexual intercourse.10Table 1 summarizes, where applicable, each state’s:

  • Age of consent. This is the age at which an individual can legally consent to sexual intercourse under any circumstances;
  • Minimum age of victim. This is the age below which an individual cannot consent to sexual intercourse under any circumstances;
  • Age differential. If the victim is above the minimum age and below the age of consent, the age differential is the maximum difference in age between the victim and the defendant where an individual can legally consent to sexual intercourse; and
  • Minimum age of defendant in order to prosecute. This is the age below which an individual cannot be prosecuted for engaging in sexual activities with minors. The table notes those states in which this law only applies when the victim is above a certain age.

As the first column in Table 1 shows, the age of consent varies by state. In the majority of states (34), it is 16 years of age. In the remaining states, the age of consent is either 17 or 18 years old (6 and 11 states, respectively).

Table 1:
State Age Requirements
State Age of
consent
Minimum age
of victim
Age differential
between the victim and defendant
(if victim is above minimum age)
Minimum age of defendant
in order to prosecute
Note: Some states have marital exemptions. This Table assumes the two parties are not married to one another.
Alabama 16 12 2 16
Alaska 16 N/A 3 N/A
Arizona 18 15 2 (defendant must be in high school and < 19) N/A
Arkansas 16 N/A 3 (if victim is < 14) 20 (if victim is e 14)
California 18 18 N/A N/A
Colorado 17 N/A 4 (if victim is < 15), 10 (if victim is < 17) N/A
Connecticut 16 N/A11 2 N/A
Delaware 1812 16 N/A N/A
District of Columbia 16 N/A 4 N/A
Florida 18 16 N/A 24 (if victim is e 16)
Georgia 16 16 N/A N/A
Hawaii 16 14 5 N/A
Idaho 1813 18 N/A N/A
Illinois 17 17 N/A N/A
Indiana 16 14 N/A 18 (if victim is e 14)
Iowa 16 14 4 N/A
Kansas 16 16 N/A N/A
Kentucky 16 16 N/A N/A
Louisiana 17 13 3 (if victim is < 15), 2 (if victim is < 17) N/A
Maine 16 1414 5 N/A
Maryland 16 N/A 4 N/A
Massachusetts 16 16 N/A N/A
Michigan 16 1615 N/A N/A
Minnesota 16 N/A 3 (if victim is < 13), 2 (if victim is < 16) N/A
Mississippi 16 N/A 2 (if victim is < 14), 3 (if victim is < 16) N/A
Missouri 17 14 N/A 21 (if victim is e 14)
Montana 16 1616 N/A N/A
Nebraska 16 1617 N/A 19
Nevada 16 16 N/A 18
New Hampshire 16 16 N/A N/A
New Jersey 16 1318 4 N/A
New Mexico 16 13 4 18 (if victim is e 13)
New York 17 17 N/A N/A
North Carolina 16 N/A 4 12
North Dakota 18 15 N/A 18 (if victim is e 15)
Ohio 16 13 N/A 18 (if victim is e 13)
Oklahoma 16 14 N/A 18 (if victim is > 14)
Oregon 18 15 3 N/A
Pennsylvania 16 13 4 N/A
Rhode Island 16 14 N/A 18 (if victim is e 14)
South Carolina 16 14 Illegal if victim is 14 to 16 and defendant is older than victim N/A
South Dakota 16 1019 3 N/A
Tennessee 18 13 4 N/A
Texas 17 14 3 N/A
Utah 18 16 10 N/A
Vermont 16 16 N/A 16
Virginia 18 15 N/A 18 (if victim is e 15)
Washington 16 N/A 2 (if victim is < 12), 3 (if victim is < 14), 4 (if victim is < 16) N/A
West Virginia 16 N/A 4 (if victim is e 11) 16, 14 (if victim is < 11)
Wisconsin 18 18 N/A N/A
Wyoming 16 N/A 4 N/A

A common misperception about statutory rape is that state codes define a single age at which an individual can legally consent to sex. Only 12 states have a single age of consent, below which an individual cannot consent to sexual intercourse under any circumstances, and above which it is legal to engage in sexual intercourse with another person above the age of consent. For example, in Massachusetts, the age of consent is 16.

In the remaining 39 states, other factors come into play: age differentials, minimum age of the victim, and minimum age of the defendant. Each is described below.

Minimum age requirement. In 27 states that do not have a single age of consent, statutes specify the age below which an individual cannot legally engage in sexual intercourse regardless of the age of the defendant (see the second column in Table 1). The minimum age requirements in these states range from 10 to 16 years of age. The legality of sexual intercourse with an individual who is above the minimum age requirement and below the age of consent is dependent on the difference in ages between the two parties and/or the age of the defendant.

  • In New Jersey, the age of consent is 16, but individuals who are at least 13 years of age can legally engage in sexual activities if the defendant is less than 4 years older than the victim.

Age differential. In 27 states, the legality of engaging in sexual intercourse with minors is, at least in some circumstances, based on the difference in age between the two parties (see the third column in Table 1). In 12 of these states, the legality is based solely on the difference between the ages of the two parties. For example:

  • In the District of Columbia it is illegal to engage in sexual intercourse with someone who is under the age of consent (16) if the defendant is 4 or more years older than the victim.
  • Although it is less common, the age differentials in some states vary depending on the age of the victim.
  • In Washington, sexual intercourse with someone who is at least 14 years of age and less than 16 years of age is illegal if the defendant is 4 or more years older than the victim. The age differential decreases in cases where the victim is less than 14 years of age (3 years), further decreasing if the victim is less than 12 years of age (2 years).

Minimum age of defendant in order to prosecute. Sixteen states set age thresholds for defendants, below which individuals cannot be prosecuted for engaging in sexual intercourse with minors (see the last column in Table 1).

  • In Nevada, the age of consent is 16; however, sexual intercourse with someone who is under 16 years of age is illegal only if the defendant is at least 18 years of age (the age at which the defendant can be prosecuted).

States that set a minimum age of the defendant also tend to have minimum age requirements for the victim. Often, the age of the defendant is only relevant if the victim is above the minimum age requirement.

  • In Ohio, sexual intercourse with someone under 13 years of age is illegal regardless of the age of the defendant. However, if the victim is above this minimum age requirement (13) and below the age of consent (16), it is only illegal to engage in sexual intercourse with that individual if the defendant is at least 18 years of age.

Some states define minimum age thresholds for defendants and age differentials.

  • In North Carolina, the age of consent is 16. Sexual intercourse with someone who is under the age of consent is only illegal if the defendant is: (1) at least 4 years older than the victim and (2) at least 12 years of age (the age at which the defendant can be prosecuted).

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