Is It Illegal to Date a Minor?

Rabin Nabizadeh
May 15, 2023

Is it illegal to date a minor

Dating is a normal part of growing up. Some people even decide to get married. At the same time, some laws need to be followed, and some might wonder, is it illegal to date a minor?

In the United States, a minor is someone who is under the age of 18. While the age of consent varies from country to country, someone cannot consent to sexual activity if they are under 18, even if they participate in the activity willingly.

So, is it illegal to date a minor? What should you do if you have been charged with statutory rape? Your chosen law firm can provide you with the strongest possible defense. Learn more about dating a minor, possible criminal charges, and what to do following an accusation.

What Should You Do if You Are Accused of Dating a Minor?

So, what should you do if you are accused of dating a minor? It depends on what you mean by dating. It does not necessarily mean you will face criminal charges if you spend time with a minor, such as going out to dinner or seeing a movie. It depends on your relationship with the child, your activities, and the state’s laws.

If you have been accused of dating a minor, mainly if you know law enforcement professionals are investigating you, you should contact an attorney for a case consultation. The sooner you get an attorney involved, the easier it will be to control the narrative.

Is It Illegal to Be in a Non-Sexual Relationship With a Minor?

No. Being in a non-sexual relationship with a minor is not necessarily illegal. As alluded to above, there might not be any specific criteria for “dating,” and simply spending time with a minor does not make it illegal.

Problems begin to arise if the relationship turns sexual. That is why it is critical to take a closer look at what we mean by a sexual relationship and what it means if the other person involved is under the age of 18.

What Is Sexual Conduct?

What is sexual conduct

It is critical to define what we mean by sexual conduct. Numerous examples of sexual conduct could lead to significant criminal consequences. A few examples of sexual conduct include:

  • Any touching of the sexual organs by either party, either over or under the clothes.
  • Oral sexual contact of any kind.
  • Sexual intercourse of any kind, including vaginal or anal intercourse.
  • Penetration of either party using a foreign object.

Any activity under one of these categories could qualify as sexual conduct, leading to significant legal consequences if the other person involved is a minor.

Is It Illegal to Be in a Sexual Relationship With a Minor?

Yes. It is illegal to be in a sexual relationship with a minor. While some very narrow exceptions to the rules vary from state to state, if you are involved in a sexual relationship with a minor in California, you could face significant legal consequences. Therefore, anyone accused of being in a sexual relationship with a minor should schedule a case consultation with a lawyer as soon as possible.

Age of Consent Laws in the United States

In the United States, the age of consent is 18. Someone under 18 in the United States cannot legally consent to a sexual relationship, even if they indicate that they are able and willing to participate in that activity. Again, there are some very narrow exceptions to these rules, but these exceptions can vary significantly from state to state.

What Are the Legal Consequences of Engaging in Sexual Activity With a Minor?

What are the legal consequences of engaging in sexual activity with a minor

If you engage in sexual activity with a minor and you are found guilty of that crime, there are significant legal consequences that you might face. Some of the essential points to keep in mind include the following:


Penalties for Violating Age of Consent Laws

The exact nature of the penalties you face will depend on the law you have been charged with and the state in which you are convicted. A few examples of legal penalties you might encounter include the following:

  • You could have to spend a significant amount of time in jail.
  • You might face substantial financial penalties.
  • You may find yourself on a registry for the rest of your life.
  • You may be forced to perform community service.
  • You might also be forced to attend counseling classes.

Again, the penalties will vary depending on the crime you have been charged with.

Long Term Consequences

There are also significant long-term consequences that you might experience as well. In addition to the social stigma from family members, friends, and community members, you may find getting a job challenging. It might also be difficult to find a place to live, particularly if you are on the registry. It may even be challenging for you to travel from place to place.

Psychological and Emotional Effects

The psychological and emotional effects of this type of conviction can be significant. You may find that you have been isolated from those around you and that people you used to talk to no longer want to speak to you. These psychological effects can grow over time, particularly given the nature of the charge. That is why putting forth the strongest possible defense as soon as possible is important.

What Is a Romeo and Juliet Law?

What is a romeo and juliet law

You may be able to defend yourself using a Romeo and Juliet law. As the name suggests, this is based on the famous play by Shakespeare, and the idea is that someone over 18 can date someone under 18 legally.

For example, a sexual relationship between someone middle-aged and a partner who is 17 is probably very different compared to a sexual relationship between someone who is 18 and a partner who is 17.

In California, if the age difference between two people having sexual relations is less than three years, and they engage in consensual sex, then the statutory rape laws or statutory rape charges may not apply.

What Are the Penalties for Statutory Rape?

If you are convicted of statutory rape in California, the penalty can vary significantly depending on the nature of the charge. For example, if you are convicted of a misdemeanor, you could face up to 364 days in jail.

On the other hand, if you are charged and convicted of a felony under this statute, you could face up to 3 years in jail. This comes in addition to financial penalties and being forced to register as a sex offender, which could also be ordered depending on the situation.

What Are the Defenses for Statutory Rape or Lewdness Accusations?

What are the defenses for statutory rape

If you have been accused of statutory rape, several defenses could be put forth. A few defenses that a skilled lawyer might employ include:



You Meet the Exception to the Law

While no Romeo and Juliet law can prevent you from being charged entirely, this law may be used to prevent you from being accused of a felony.

The penalties for being convicted of a misdemeanor are significantly lower than that of a felony. Still, suppose you can prove that you meet the exception to the law under the Romeo and Juliet provision. In that case, we could also get your charges dismissed entirely, depending on the nature of the accusation.

This Is a False Accusation

You can also claim that this is a false accusation. Just because someone says that you had sex with someone else doesn’t necessarily mean that was the case.

You can support your claim of a false accusation by calling on other witnesses who can testify that you were doing something different or that you were in a different location entirely. You can discredit the person leveling the accusation against you.

In that case, you can convince the jury that there is reasonable doubt, which can prevent you from being convicted.

There Is Not Enough Evidence to Convict

Finally, if there is evidence that sexual activity occurred, you may be able to say there is not enough evidence to convict. For example, you can say that the individual doesn’t necessarily know who they had sex with, or you may be able to say that the evidence was somehow mishandled and should not be admitted as evidence.

The exact defense you will employ will depend on the specific situation, and getting a lawyer involved as quickly as possible is important. Reach out to lawyers who are experts in cases like this to schedule a case consultation.

Talk to Our Criminal Defense Attorneys at Summit Defense to Help You With Your Case

Criminal defense attorneys

If you have been accused of statutory rape, or any other form of sexual contact with a minor, the penalties can be significant. The social stigma can be even worse, so putting forth the strongest possible defense is important.

At Summit Defense, we have significant experience helping people address criminal charges, including accusations of statutory rape. Call us today to schedule a case consultation and learn more about how we can help you.

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