Virginia Code Title 18.2, Chapter 4, Article 7 defines criminal sexual assault and identifies who can consent to sexual acts in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Intercourse Without Consent Is a Crime Regardless of Age
There is one straightforward, easy to understand baseline in Virginia law. If there is no consent, meaning that the person with whom the accused had intercourse did not agree to have sex, then age is of no consequence. Simply put, rape occurs when no consent is given for sexual intercourse regardless of the other person’s age.
Children Under 13 Cannot Provide Legal Consent
No child who is under the age of 13 is able to consent to a sexual act. Therefore, no person can have consensual sex with a person under 13 years of age without violating Virginia Code §18.2-61.
In Virginia, people face significant criminal consequences if they have sexual intercourse with a minor who is 12 years old or younger. The accused faces a minimum of five years in prison and a possible life sentence. If the accused was 18-years-old or older at the time of the rape, then the accused faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
13- to 17-Year-Olds May Only Consent Sometimes
Consent is more complicated for people between the ages of 13 and 17. According to Virginia law:
- 13- to 17-year-olds may refuse to give consent in any situation. If force is used after a teenager refuses consent, then the law may have been violated.
- An adult (age 18 or older) may not have carnal knowledge of a 13- or 14-year-old. Children under the age of 15 may not consent to sexual acts with adults. An adult in this situation may be charged with a Class 4 felony, and the potential sentence may include two to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
- A minor (under the age of 18, but more than three years older than the alleged victim) may not have carnal knowledge of a 13- or 14-year-old. If the accused is a minor who is more than three years older than the alleged victim, then the accused may be charged with a Class 6 felony instead of a Class 4 felony. The potential sentence for a Class 6 felony includes one to five years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.
- A minor (under the age of 18, but less than three years older than the alleged victim) may not have carnal knowledge of a 13- or 14-year-old. However, if the accused is a minor within three years of age of the alleged victim, then the accused may be charged with a Class 4 misdemeanor instead of a felony. The potential sentence for a Class 4 misdemeanor includes a fine of up to $250.
For purposes of this law, carnal knowledge includes:
- Sexual intercourse
- Anal intercourse
- Animate and inanimate object sexual penetration
15- to 17-year-olds may provide consent to other teens who are close in age. For example, it may not violate Virginia law if a:
- 17-year-old engages in sexual acts with another 17-year-old, 16-year-old, or 15-year-old
- 16-year-old engages in sexual acts with another 16-year-old or a 15-year-old
- 15-year-old engages in sexual acts with another 15-year-old
Virginia Age of Consent Defenses
You may face a lengthy prison sentence, fines, and a criminal record if you are accused of having sexual relations with a minor in Virginia. However, you have not yet been convicted, and you have the right to defend yourself.
Before the Commonwealth can convict you and sentence you for a crime, it must prove its case against you. You have the right to defend yourself. Depending on the circumstances of the alleged offense, possible defenses may include:
- Mistaken identity (it wasn’t you who committed the crime)
- The alleged crime never occurred
- You were married to the alleged victim and the victim, regardless of age, provided consent
Sometimes, alleged victims convincingly maintain that they are 18 or older. While this can be frustrating and misleading, it is not a defense to statutory rape or age of consent laws in Virginia.
If you face statutory rape or other charges based on someone’s age of consent, we encourage you to contact our experienced Fairfax sex crime defense lawyers today for a free consultation.