There are two distinct categories of sex offenses prosecuted in Virginia. The first involves an absolute lack of consent, possibly due to chemical intoxication or violence. The second involves questions about an individual’s ability to consent based on the dynamic between the parties or the age of the people involved. As myths concerning intent are common, it’s important for everyone to take time to learn about what consent is, when it can be legally obtained and when it can’t.
For example, Virginia law imposes a strict limit on when someone can theoretically consent to sexual activity, and violations of that law could lead to the prosecution of someone who has contact with a young adult.
The ability to consent usually begins at age 15
Those accused of having sexual contact with teenagers who are only 13 or 14 could face prosecution regardless of their circumstances. However, once a teenager turns 15, they do have the ability to consent to intimacy with someone else who is also a minor.
A scenario involving two consenting teens who are at least 15 but under 18 will not lead to legal issues for either party. Only if one of the parties is over 18 will the older individual possibly face prosecution to some degree even when the younger party is 15 or older. People sometimes refer to this as a “Romeo and Juliet” rule that creates more leniency for school-age teenagers exploring their relationship while still protecting younger teens from those who are legally adults.
Learning about the nuances of Virginia’s age of consent rules may benefit those considering pursuing a relationship with a younger partner, as doing so can help to better ensure that everyone’s rights are protected and that activity is only conducted in truly informed ways.