The subject of minors engaging in sexual activities is a sensitive one, but it needs to be addressed. As a New York family law attorney knows, teenagers often take their romantic relationships to the next level. However, this could result in legal trouble if one of them is under 17 years old.
The minimal age of consent is 17 years in New York, and our state does not have the close-in-age exception known as a Romeo and Juliet law.
If you need help with a divorce or family law case, contact our team at the Douglas Family Law Group.
How Does the Age of Consent Affect Relationships Between Minors?
The age of consent defines the moment when a person can be considered old enough to consent to having sex, in the eyes of the law. Thus, any person under the age of 17 is considered to be unable to give this consent.
The 17-year-old age of consent is applicable to all sexual identities and sexual orientations. Also, the mistake of age is not a valid defense in New York. Thus, the party accused of having sex with someone under 17 cannot claim that they believed their partner to be older.
Moreover, even people who are still legally minors (under 18) can be charged for having sexual relations with someone below the age of consent.
No Marital Exception or Romeo and Juliet Law
In 2021, New York legislators closed a loophole allowing persons to escape charges related to sex activity with a person below the age of consent. Senate Bill S3086 increased the age of consent for marriage to 18.
As a New York family law attorney knows, any marriage contracted with someone under 18 will be deemed invalid and the adult will be prosecuted for engaging in sexual relations with a person below the age of consent.
Several states have Romeo and Juliet laws, which is an exception that allows a minor to legally consent to a sexual relationship with a partner who is close in age. New York does not have this exception.
What Is the Charge for Engaging in Sexual Relations With Someone Younger Than 17?
A person who engages in sexual activity with someone under 17 is charged with statutory rape. This is a very severe offense, carrying harsh penalties, which we will detail below. It is important to remember that, irrespective of the type of charge, all persons tried as adults will be obliged to register as sex offenders.
Here is a summary of the statutory rape charges a person may face in our state.
Class B Felony
This is the most severe charge, carrying a sentence between 5 and 25 years in prison. The offenses leading to this type of charge are:
- Engaging in sex with an individual who is less than 11 years old
- Engaging in sex with someone who is less than 13 years old and the perpetrator is 18 years old or more
- Engaging in sex with an individual who is incapable of consent by reason of being physically helpless.
Class D Felony
A Class D felony offense carries a sentence of a maximum of 7 years in prison. The person is deemed guilty of rape in the second degree for:
- Sexual activity with a person under 15 years old while the perpetrator is 18 years or older
- Sexual activity with a person incapable of giving consent due to mental disability or mental incapacitation.
Class E Felony
- Being 21 years or older and engaging in sexual activity with a person under 17 years old
- Engaging in sexual intercourse with another person who cannot give consent by reason of any factor except for being less than 17 years old.
The Five-Year Rule Carries Lighter Penalties
You may note that the Class E felony charge refers to people aged 21 and older engaging in sexual relations with a person below the age of consent. This is because the state of New York has a five-year rule for the following situation:
- One of the sex partners is between 15 and 17 years old
- The other partner is within five years of their age.
In this case, the applicable charge is a Class A misdemeanor – sexual abuse in the second degree – carrying a penalty of up to 1 year in jail. Depending on circumstances, the offender may be eligible for reduced penalties, such as probation.
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Elizabeth A. Douglas and her team of highly experienced family law attorneys have been successfully representing clients in the White Plains and surrounding areas of New York for decades.
Whether you are facing divorce, child custody disputes, spousal support issues, or any other family-related legal matter, having a dedicated advocate by your side can make all the difference. You can rely on the Douglas Family Law Group.
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