Age of Consent Law & Legal Definition


Age of consent refers to the legally defined age at which a person is no longer required to obtain parental consent to get married. It also refers to the age at which a person is held to have the capacity to voluntarily agree to sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse with a person under the age of consent may lead to criminal charges of statutory rape or sexual assault. Lack of knowledge of the person's age, even if based upon a reasonable mistaken belief about the person being of the age of consent, is not a defense to such charges. It is also referred to as "legal age" or "majority".

Statutory rape is sex between an adult and a minor below the age of consent. Every state has a statutory rape law in some form. The age of consent varies from state to state, but is generally from 16 - 18 years of age. Many state statutes also specify a minimum age of the perpetrator or an age differential (as at least four years) between the perpetrator and the victim. Consent of the victim and belief that the victim is of the age of consent are usually considered immaterial.

The term “consent” cannot be precisely defined with to make a definition meaningful for any and/or all situations. Consent must be determined on case-by-case basis, by examining the facts and circumstances involved. In some cases, however, consent may never be given, such as when an individual is asleep or unconscious, or when an individual’s judgment is impaired by drugs or alcohol.