The age of consent in the United States (in each of its states)

The age of consent in the United States is 16 to 18.


The legal age of consent in the United States at the federal level is 16. Sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16 implies child abuse. This is a small guide to the age of consent for all of your states.

Rape (or abuse of minors) is a crime which consists in having sexual relations with a minor, by deception or using the superiority one has over her and is punishable by law. Aside from the federal rape law, each of the US states has its own local laws regarding consensual sex. The consensual age ranges from 16 to 18 depending on the state.

Map with age of consent across all US states. I unload.

The age of consent in the United States in each state

States where the age of consent is 16

In 32 US states, the legal age of consent is 16. These include Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia and Washington.

18 of these states have age-waiver laws that protect underage couples who consent to sexual activity from prosecution, even in cases where one partner is just over the age of consent. In Connecticut, for example, a 13-year-old can agree to a sexual relationship if the older partner is no more than three years her senior. Children under the age of 13 may also consent to sexual activity with partners no older than two years of age. However, if the elder is a guardian or person of authority for the minor, the age of consent is 18.

States where the age of consent is 17

In Wyoming, Texas, New York, New Mexico, Missouri, Louisiana, Illinois and Colorado, people under the age of 17 cannot legally consent to sexual intercourse. Of the eight states, only Colorado and New Mexico have a near-age exception. In New Mexico, a person 18 years of age and older can have a consensual sexual relationship with a person younger than 17 as long as the person is no more than four years younger. This law, however, does not apply in cases where the older partner is an employee, volunteer or caregiver at the child’s school.

States where the age of consent is 18

Eleven states, including Wisconsin, Virginia, Utah, Tennessee, Oregon, North Dakota, Idaho, Florida, Delaware, California and Arizona, ban sex with partners under the age of 18. Only six of these states have strict age exceptions to avoid prosecution for couples who engage in consensual sex with minors within their age groups. In Tennessee, for example, teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18 are allowed to agree to sexual activity with partners as young as four years old.

Child protection

Child abuse laws are necessary for society because they protect children from sexual exploitation. Most communities consider young people capable of making decisions about intimate relationships by the time they reach 16. However, even in these societies, people under the age of 18 are still considered children and are protected by law from sexual exploitation, especially by people in authority and close relatives, such as guardians.

Age of consent by state

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

Further information

What exactly is the age of consent?

The age of consent is the legally defined age at which a person is considered legally competent to consent to sexual activity. Anyone who violates this law is subject to prosecution under child abuse laws.

For example: Caroline and John are in a romantic relationship. The age of consent that applies to your position is sixteen. If John is fifteen and Caroline is twenty-three, any sexual contact between them is considered statutory rape, whether it was consensual or not, and Caroline may face criminal prosecution. A person whose age is below the age of consent is considered a victim, and a sexual partner whose age is above the age of consent is considered an aggressor.

Consequences of not meeting the age of consent in the United States

Charges for violating age of consent laws can range from a relatively minor offense to statutory rape and being registered as a sex offender, which is considered the legal equivalent of rape and charged as such. As with any other aspect of the law, fees vary by region. The age of the offender, the age of the victim, the context of the sexual activity, and what sexual acts were performed can seriously affect the punishment of the offender. In some places, legal defenses can be used to fight prosecution, such as a reasonable lack of knowledge of the victim’s age. However, these defenses are not available in all areas.

What is Child Abuse in the United States?

Statutory rape is defined as sexual contact with a person under the legal age of consent. This law generally refers to adults who engage in sexual activity with minors. There are many different terms, all of which can refer to statutory rape: sexual assault, rape of a child, corruption of a minor, and many more.

Child rape vs. forced rape

Child rape is not the same as rape. The key difference between statutory rape and statutory rape is that the only deciding factor between statutory sexual activity and statutory rape is age. Lack of consent or the use of force can increase the size of the punishment, but sexual contact need not occur for statutory rape to have occurred.

Minors, as well as people with mental disabilities, are not considered legally capable of consenting to sexual activity. However, it should be noted that sexual intercourse with minors who have not yet reached puberty is generally treated as a much more serious offense than statutory rape, usually called molestation or child molestation.

Statutory rape can be treated differently depending on the gender of the victim and the perpetrator. Until the late 1900s, statutory rape involving a grown woman and a teenage boy was often ignored by the law, while a statutory rape case involving a grown man and an underage girl was treated much more seriously. This kind of thinking is still somewhat present today, although the crimes are legally equivalent to any other.

Punishments for statutory rape

In most jurisdictions, statutory rape is a felony, and a conviction results in significant prison time (averaging 1-15 years) as well as large fines of up to $100,000 USD or more. The exact class of crime committed (crime, misdemeanor, etc.) largely depends on the relative ages of the perpetrator and the victim. In many states, conviction for statutory rape also results in mandatory lifetime registration as a sex offender.

Issues with statutory rape

While no one questions the need for legal rape laws to protect children from sexual predators, many legal rape laws exist in a legal gray area that can have unintended consequences. In at least 29 US states, age of consent laws essentially make all sexual contact with minors illegal, regardless of the relative ages of the partners.

This means that, for example, two 15-year-olds who engage in consensual sex can be prosecuted for statutory rape and can even be listed as sex offenders for life. While many states have close age waivers designed to prevent this exact situation from happening, there have been numerous incidents where underage “offenders” have been prosecuted and convicted of statutory rape.

Additionally, many questioned the ethics of prosecuting someone for statutory rape when their partner lied about their age, acquired a fake ID, etc. statutory conviction for rape in some states, especially when the defendant had reasonable grounds to believe they were past the age of consent (for example, meeting the victim in a bar where age was confirmed by door identification).

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