What Is the Age of Consent in Virginia?
The age of consent is the age at which an individual becomes capable of consenting to engage in sexual acts. The age of consent can vary among U.S. states. The age of consent in Virginia is 18. In fact, Virginia, along with another ten states, has set the highest legal age of consent.
This means someone older than 18 can’t legally have sex with someone younger than 18. Even if consensual sexual intercourse occurs, they are breaking the law, as those under 18 cannot legally consent.
Breaking the age of consent law can lead to various charges, and among them is statutory rape, which is considered a felony crime. Of course, there are certain exceptions.
Suppose you or your loved one is facing charges based on someone’s age of consent. If that is the case, know these charges can have serious consequences. A Virginia criminal lawyer may be able to help you fight these charges.
What Is Sexual Consent in Virginia?
Consent is not actually defined by law. Generally, sexual consent means that both parties willingly and voluntarily agree to engage in sexual activity without any form of coercion or force.
An individual can’t provide legal consent if a sexual act occurred:
By using physical force or threats
While they had a physical disability or an impaired mental capacity
If any of these situations apply, how old an individual is is not important. They cannot provide valid consent. If an individual didn’t consent to sexual intercourse, then rape occurred.
Virginia Age of Consent Laws
Several statutes apply when it comes to the Virginia legal age of consent. They identify who can consent to sexual acts in the Commonwealth of Virginia. They also define what is considered criminal sexual assault.
Virginia law differentiates between two statutes concerning sexual activities involving minors. Code § 18.2-63 deals with “carnal knowledge” of a child between 13 and 15 years. Carnal knowledge is a legal term for sexual intercourse. Virginia law includes the acts of sexual intercourse, oral sex, anal intercourse, cunnilingus, and animate and inanimate object sexual penetration.
Code § 18.2-61 deals with another common situation. It refers to an individual who is 18 or older and has sex with someone who is 15, 16, or 17 years old.
In the eyes of the law, both offenses are serious and illegal, and individuals found guilty of breaking either statute may face significant legal consequences. However, the severity of breaking each code may depend on the case’s specific circumstances, the age difference between the parties involved, and the nature of the sexual acts committed.
What Happens if I Violate the Virginia Age of Consent?
Those who violate the Virginia age of consent laws can be prosecuted and charged. The crimes they can be charged with include sexual assault or statutory rape. The charges can be brought regardless of whether the sexual act was consensual.
In other words, if you are an adult and have sex with someone younger than 18, you may be charged with statutory rape.
Virginia’s Statutory Rape Laws and Potential Penalties
Rape is a felony in Virginia. Rape charges can be brought if a sexual act is committed without the other person’s consent.
Engaging in sexual intercourse with children under 13 will result in rape charges. Suppose the offender was 18 or older at the time of the offense. In that case, the potential punishment can include imprisonment for life. Offenders over three years older than the victim can spend up to 25 years in prison.
Carnal knowledge between an individual and a minor of 13 or 14 is also a felony. But other circumstances of the crime are also important.
The offense can be prosecuted as follows:
- Class 4 felony if the defendant is 18 or older. The penalty can include two to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
- Class 6 felony if the defendant is younger than 18 and over three years older than the victim. The crime can result in spending one to five years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.
If someone is younger than 18 and less than three years older than the victim, the offense is a Class 4 misdemeanor. Potential penalties can include a fine of up to $250.
Does the Virginia Age of Consent Apply to Explicit Pictures or Videos?
Virginia’s age of consent laws doesn’t apply to “sexting.” However, receiving, producing, or transmitting explicit photos or videos of individuals under 18 is illegal under Federal law.
On the other hand, individuals who have reached the age of consent are legally allowed to participate in sexting.
Are There Any Exceptions to the Age of Consent?
There are certain exceptions to the age of consent in Virginia. For example, Virginia’s age of consent laws may not apply to married individuals engaging in sexual activity with their spouse as long as the age difference is not otherwise illegal. This includes marriages between those under 18, as in Virginia, an emancipated child can marry at 16.
Additionally, Virginia also has a Romeo and Juliet exemption. It applies to consensual sex between minors. It allows teenagers aged 15, 16, and 17 to engage in sexual acts. But, their partner must also be younger than 18. Additionally, they must be fewer than three years apart in age.
When one of them turns 18, a Romeo and Juliet exemption may only reduce the potential charges. The conduct becomes illegal, but penalties are not as harsh.
Understanding the specific laws and nuances is essential to ensure compliance and avoid legal issues. Sometimes, a civil protection order can protect a victim if the police don’t have enough evidence to file formal charges.
How Can an Attorney Help?
Sexual abuse crimes shouldn’t be taken lightly. Being convicted of any of these crimes can result in prison time and significant fines.
If you are facing charges based on someone’s age of consent, consider consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney. They can evaluate the strength of the prosecution’s case against you. Furthermore, they can create defenses that might apply to your case.
An attorney can provide valuable assistance by offering legal representation, navigating complex laws and regulations, building a strong defense, negotiating with prosecutors, and striving to achieve the best possible outcome for the individual facing legal issues. Additionally, they can protect their client’s rights, provide expert guidance, and ensure a fair legal process.
A lot is at stake, and you have the right to defend yourself. Experienced Virginia criminal lawyer, Jay P. Mykytiuk of Scrofano Law, is prepared to defend your rights.
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