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.
What Is Consent?
Regardless of age, a person may not provide legal consent if a sexual act occurs because of:
- Physical force
- Threats or intimidation
- Impaired mental capacity or physical disability
Additionally, people under the age of 13 cannot provide legal consent, and people between the ages of 14 and 17 may only provide consent for sexual activity in limited circumstances.
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 can 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 the alleged victim's age, 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
According to Virginia's " Romeo and Juliet Law," a 15- to 17-year-old 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
How Virginia Age of Consent Laws Compare to Maryland and Washington D.C. Laws
Each state creates its own consent laws. For example, Maryland and Washington D.C. have different age of consent laws than Virginia.
In Maryland, the age of consent is 16. People who are 15-years-old or younger may not consent to sexual activity. Additionally, Maryland doesn't have a close-in-age exemption. Therefore, if two people under the age of 15 have consensual sex, they both could be prosecuted for statutory rape.
Washington D.C., like Maryland, establishes 16 as the age of consent. Therefore, people younger than 16 may not consent to sexual activity. However, unlike Maryland, Washington D.C. has a close-in-age exemption. According to Washington D.C.'s Romeo and Juliet law, couples who engage in consensual sex may not be prosecuted if they are close in age to one another, even if one or both of them are 15-years-old or younger.
Virginia Age of Consent Defenses
You may face a lengthy prison sentence, fines, a criminal record, and a damaged reputation 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 Virginia's statutory rape or age of consent laws.
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. You have a lot at stake, and you have the right to defend yourself. Our lawyers will help you build a strong defense and aggressively fight to protect your rights. Call us or complete our online contact form today to learn more.