Age of consent laws aren’t as straightforward as they seem and violations can lead to life-altering consequences. Here are the basics:
What is the Age of consent in Washington
Consent is defined as giving permission for something to happen, so sexual consent means distinctly agreeing to sexual relations. Age of consent refers to the age when an individual is deemed emotionally mature enough to legally give consent. There are no exceptions for when, for example, exceptionally mature and lucid 15-year-olds give enthusiastic consent.
In Washington State, the age of consent is 16. However, that’s not a blanket sanction for people of any age to have sexual relations with 16-year-olds.
For people under the age of 18, meaning 16- or 17-year-olds, their partner cannot be more than five years (60 months) older than the minor. So, if a 22-year-old has sex with a 16-year-old, they can face legal repercussions.
Some states have Romeo and Juliet laws (also known as Close in Age Exemption Laws) that protect sexual partners under the legal age of consent, but who are close in age. Washington does not have such laws, with very specific exceptions. Anyone of any age who has sexual relations with a minor who is 15 years old or younger can be prosecuted for statutory rape.
What are the legal repercussions for statutory rape?
Statutory rape laws in Washington are broken down into first-, second- and third-degree felonies depending on the age of the minor, the age of the perpetrator, the degree of sexual interaction that occurred (e.g., sexual contact versus sexual intercourse) and whether the contact was consensual or forced. In virtually all cases, punishments are severe, ranging from five years to life in prison, plus steep fines.
There is no statute of limitations for sex crimes involving minors in Washington. Charges can be filed decades after the encounter.
What if the accused claims they didn’t know the child’s age?
Washington enforces a “strict liability claim” regarding older individuals who claim to have unknowingly had sex with minors. This means, there are no exceptions for situations when the perpetrator makes an assumption of the child’s age based on circumstances, behavior and/or appearance.
However, the courts will show leniency in instances when a minor falsely, explicitly declares they are 18 years old or older.
If you find yourself in this situation, reach out immediately to the lawyers at Vindicate Law!