Virginia Age of Consent

Virginia Age of Consent

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Virginia Age of Consent

The laws surrounding the age of consent in Virginia can be complicated, especially when the individuals involved are so close in age. If you’re facing criminal charges for engaging in sexual conduct with a minor below the age of consent, the stakes are extremely high. The penalties for a conviction can include lengthy prison time, sex offender registration, and a number of other far-reaching consequences that can affect nearly every aspect of your life.

With this in mind, it’s absolutely crucial that you take these charges – or even mere allegations – seriously. The best thing you can do for yourself is equip the help of an experienced Manassas criminal defense attorney right away. At the Manassas Law Group, our attorneys have been representing clients throughout Northern Virginia with criminal charges, personal injury claims, estate planning, and more for decades now, and we’re ready to help you with your case, too.

To discuss your case with one of our knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys, contact the Manassas Law Group today by calling (703) 361-8246 or by completing our online contact form. The sooner we can begin planning your defense, the sooner you’ll be able to move on with your life and put these allegations behind you.

What is Age of Consent?

In criminal law, “age of consent” refers to the minimum age at which an individual is considered legally capable of consenting to sexual relations. Every U.S. state has age of consent laws, but the age varies widely between jurisdictions.

The law assumes that individuals below the age of consent do not have the capacity to give informed consent to sexual activities. As such, when an adult has sex with a minor under the state’s prescribed age of legal consent, they may face a sex crime conviction and any number of life-altering penalties.

Understanding the laws surrounding age of consent is incredibly important, as not knowing the victim’s age generally is not considered a viable defense.

Legal Definition of Consent

Consent is legally defined as the voluntary and willful agreement to another person’s proposition. Especially when it relates to a sex act, consent should be given freely, knowingly, and coherently by someone who has the capacity to make such a decision.

This means that consent cannot be granted through coercion, manipulation, or under circumstances where the individual is unable to make an informed decision. Being under the age of consent, deemed physically helpless, or being mentally incapacitated are all examples of when a person’s ability to consent is legally invalid.

The consent must also be clear, ongoing, and affirmative. Affirmative consent means that it can be revoked at any time, and the absence of a “no” does not imply a “yes.”

Different jurisdictions may have varying definitions of what constitutes valid consent, particularly regarding mental capacity, the circumstances under which consent was given, and the age at which they can legally grant consent.

What is the Age of Consent in Virginia?

The age of consent in Virginia is 18 years of age. This means that adults who engage in sexual acts with anyone under the age of 18 years can be charged with various crimes depending on the sexual acts performed and the age of the minor in question.

However, there are certain circumstances that may warrant an exception to the age of consent laws in Virginia. If the individuals engaging in sexual activity are between 15 to 17 years of age, they may be able to provide consent to another person close to their age.

For example, a 17-year-old may engage in consensual sexual intercourse with an individual who is 15, 16, or 17 years of age and not violate Virginia’s age of consent laws.

Age of Consent in Each State

The age of consent in the United States varies by state, ranging from 16 to 18 years. Here’s a breakdown of each state’s age of consent:

  • 16 Years Old: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.
  • 17 Years Old: Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, Texas, and Wyoming.
  • 18 Years Old: Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

What Happens if Someone Violates Age of Consent Laws?

In many states, if someone engages in sexual activity with someone under the age of consent, they may be charged with statutory rape. In Virginia, this offense may either be considered rape or carnal knowledge of a child, depending on the age of the alleged victim.

Below, we’ll provide the legal definition of each of these offenses as prescribed by Virginia’s criminal code.

Code of Virginia § 18.2-61

Virginia Code Title 18.2, Chapter 4, Article 7 covers a number of offenses that constitute criminal sexual assault, including rape. According to § 18.2-61 of this statute, a person commits rape if they have sexual intercourse with a complaining witness (or causes a complaining witness to do so with someone else) and such person accomplishes the act:

  • By physical force, threats, or intimidation;
  • By taking advantage of the victim’s impaired mental capacity or physical helplessness; or
  • With a child under the age of 13.

Note that mental impairment (or mental incapacity) and physical helplessness refer to the inability of a person to either provide consent or resist the sexual activity. This could be due to any number of reasons, including an intellectual disability, severe mental illness, physical disability, being unconscious or asleep, or being under the effects of intoxicants or other substances that impair cognitive functions.

Code of Virginia § 18.2-63

Virginia Code § 18.2-63 defines carnal knowledge of a child between thirteen and fifteen years of age. Under this statute, it is against the law for a person to carnally know a child between these ages. This offense does not require the use of force, but simply hinges on the fact that a child of this age cannot legally consent to sexual contact or activity.

What Does Carnal Knowledge Mean?

When a person carnally knows a child, it does not necessarily mean he or she engaged in sexual intercourse with such child. In Virginia, carnal knowledge is defined as sexual acts including sexual intercourse as well as oral sex (fellatio, cunnilingus, and/or anilingus), anal intercourse, animate object sexual penetration, and inanimate object sexual penetration.

Penalties for Statutory Rape in Virginia

Even though Virginia doesn’t technically use the legal term “statutory rape,” people convicted of engaging in sexual conduct with a minor may still face severe penalties for those convicted.

If a person engages in any sexual act with a child thirteen years or older but below the age of fifteen, they may be found guilty of a Class 4 felony. The punishment for a Class 4 felony in Virginia may be anywhere from 2 to 10 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines, although there are some exceptions.

If the accused is also minor but they are three or more years older than the alleged victim, the offense may be reduced to a Class 6 felony, which may warrant between 1 to 5 years in prison OR up to one year in jail and $2,500 in fines. If the sexual act involved a consenting child less than three years younger, it becomes a Class 4 misdemeanor. In VA, a Class 4 misdemeanor conviction can result in up to $250 in fines.

When the victim is less than 13 years of age, the weight of the penalties increases significantly. In general, a person convicted of rape in Virginia may face anywhere from 5 years to life imprisonment.

However, if the accused is over three years older than the alleged victim and the crime occurred in the commission of (or an attempt to commit) a child abduction, extortion, statutory burglary, or aggravated malicious wounding, the mandatory minimum term increases to 25 years in prison.

If the accused is 18 years of age or older and the victim is below the age of 13, the punishment is life in prison.

Aside from substantial prison time and fines, a sex crime conviction in Virginia can lead to long-term or lifetime registration as a sex offender under the Virginia Sex Offender Registry. This can severely restrict where you can live, work, and travel. Not only that, but the mere stigma of such a crime can result in social ostracization, difficulties in securing employment, loss of professional licenses, and significant personal and familial stress.

Given the severity of these penalties (and the consequences associated with sexual offenses in general, especially involving a minor), it’s important to work with an experienced Virginia sex crime attorney who can work to mitigate the consequences you may be facing.

Does Statutory Rape Apply to Any Sexual Act or Just Sexual Intercourse?

In Virginia, sexual intercourse is a required element for the offense of rape. However, this is not the case when it comes to carnal knowledge of a child. In addition to intercourse, carnal knowledge can involve cunnilingus, fellatio, anilingus, anal sex, and other sexual acts.

There are a number of other serious crimes that a person may be charged with if they engage in sexual contact or other sexual activities with a minor depending on the circumstances surrounding the case, such as sexual abuse, forcible sodomy, indecent liberties with a minor, object sexual penetration, and more.

Is It Illegal for Two Minors to Have Sex?

Under Virginia age of consent laws, if one or both parties are under 18 (especially if they are under 15), the legality of consensual sex becomes complex. If both minors are under 18 but over 15, the situation likely won’t lead to statutory rape charges. However, once there becomes a 3-year age difference between the two parties, such as a 13 and a 17-year-old, legal action can be taken by the younger party against the older.

Can an 18-Year-Old Date a 16-Year-Old?

Technically, an 18-year-old can legally date a 16-year-old, as “dating” in and of itself isn’t regulated by law. However, engaging in sexual activities with someone who is 16 when you are 18 can potentially lead to criminal charges.

Romeo and Juliet Law Virginia

Virginia law does provide some leeway with a close-in-age exemption. This affirmative defense, often referred to as Virginia’s Romeo and Juliet Laws, allows two young adults between the ages of 15 and 17 the ability to engage in sexual activity without violating any laws.

If one partner is three years older than the other, the state considers the younger partner to be a victim, meaning the alleged perpetrator may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony offense in Virginia, depending on the facts of the case.

Criminal Defense for Violating Virginia’s Age of Consent Laws

Whether you’re facing charges for statutory rape or sexual battery, the repercussions of a sex crime can follow you around forever. These far-reaching consequences require the assistance of a skilled attorney.

At Manassas Law Group, our Prince William County criminal attorneys are well-equipped to defend clients facing charges of statutory rape and a number of other sex crimes across Northern Virginia. Understanding the severe implications of sex offenses, our team is dedicated to crafting strategic defense strategies tailored to the specific details of each case.

In cases of statutory rape, it is not enough to prove consent, as the age of the victim overrides any instance of affirmative consent. As such, our attorneys may take another approach to challenging the prosecution’s claims, aiming to undermine the credibility of the evidence against our clients.

Our goal is not only to protect our clients from the harsh penalties associated with these charges, but also to preserve their reputations and personal and professional futures.

Call the Northern Virginia Criminal Defense Attorneys at Manassas Law Group Today

If you or someone you love has been accused of violating the age of consent laws in Virginia and are facing statutory rape charges as a result, the experienced Prince William County sex crime attorneys at the Manassas Law Group are here to help. Whether you’re being charged with a misdemeanor or felony, you need a team of attorneys that you can trust and will aggressively fight for your rights.

Call the Manassas Law Group at (703) 361-8246 or reach out online to schedule a free consultation with one of our top Virginia criminal defense attorneys today.