Lowest Age of Consent in the US

Lowest Age of Consent in the US. The subject of the age of consent is very important and due to its relationship with the subjects of marriage, adultery, divorce and bigamy that we are dealing with, it seemed prudent to incorporate it.

Lowest Age of Consent in the US
Lowest Age of Consent in the US

Age of Consent: What Does it Mean?

According to most legal jurisdictions, the age of consent is the minimum age at which a person can express their consent to marriage or sexual relations.

It is estimated that consent ages vary greatly worldwide; within the United States, the age of consent varies from state to state and territory to territory, with all states ranging between 16 and 18 years of age.change According to law, consent to sexual conduct is defined as an agreement freely given by a competent individual.  

Close in Age Exemption Laws

It is common for age of consent cases to arise between couples who are very close in age, but one of them technically is under 18. The older individual should not be punished or placed on a sex offender registry in these cases for the sake of justice.

“Romeo and Juliet” laws, also called close in age exemption laws, are meant to protect young adults from sexual intercourse with someone under the age of consent but are still very close to them. The rule also applies to couples with both members under the age of consent.

The older person cannot be charged with statutory rape or put on the sex offender registry if he or she has sex with someone under 17 but no more than three years younger. In some states, being close in age is considered a mitigating factor rather than a complete defense.

Age of Consent in the US

An individual may legally consent to sexual activity in the United States at the age of consent. Several federal statutes protect minors from sexual predators, and each state and territory set the age of consent by decree or by common law. Depending on the jurisdiction, legal approval is usually between 16 and 18 years old. Civil and criminal laws within the same state may conflict in some cases.

According to US law, parents should lose the right to control their children’s sexuality once the consent age is reached outside marriage. Most American states do not require parents to have a minimum legal age for their children to be married off.

As a result, the minimum age is set to 12 years under federal law. In court, the consent of the parents is the most critical factor. In determining whether a crime has been committed, the minor’s permission is not legally significant. American law implies that a few can consent to sex at 12 if their parents approve of the marriage.


In all US states, the unrestricted consent age is 16 to 18, but laws across the country have varied widely in the past. The age of consent in 1880 was 10 or 12 in most states, except in Delaware, where it was 7. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, the ages of consent were raised across the US.

The consent age was raised in 26 states to 16 in 1920; in 21 states, it was raised to 18 in 1920, and in one state (Georgia), it was raised to 14 in 1920. Several small changes were made to these laws after 1920. Georgia raised its age of general consent from 14 to 16 in 1995, and Hawaii raised it from 14 to 16 in 2001, the last two states to do so.

Historically, age-of-consent laws applied only to females younger than their male partners. A gender-neutral age of consent was in place by 2015. For sexual conduct to be considered criminal, many states required the teenage girl to be “chaste” until the late 20th century. Mississippi became the last state to remove the chastity provision from its laws in 1998.  

Due to the laws’ design, prosecutors rarely prosecuted teenagers in relationships with other teenagers, even though some laws prohibited close-in-age teenage relationships.

Almost half of the adolescent pregnancies among girls between 15 and 17 were caused by men aged 20 and older, according to a 1995 Landry and Forrest study. States began enforcing age-of-consent laws more rigorously to combat teenage pregnancy and prevent adults from exploiting minors.

Several teens who were engaged in close-in-age relationships received punishments perceived by the public as disproportionate, and age-gap provisions were added to reduce or eliminate those penalties.

As explained by Brittany Logino Smith and Glen A. Kercher of Sam Houston State University’s Criminal Justice Center, these laws are sometimes called “Romeo and Juliet laws,” even though they refer only to affirmative defenses to charges. It used to be that some of these statutes only applied to heterosexual sex, leaving homosexual sex in the same age group unprotected.

In all US states, the District of Columbia, and territories, heterosexual and homosexual sodomy became legal on June 26, 2003. The Kansas Supreme Court overturned the state’s “Romeo and Juliet” law in State v. Limon (2005) by using Lawrence as a precedent. This law prescribed lesser punishments for heterosexual acts than homosexual acts at similar ages. 

The Jessica’s Law statutes were passed in 2005, which provide for lengthy prison sentences and electronic monitoring for the most egregious forms of child sexual abuse (usually occurring to children under age 12). During Kennedy v. Louisiana in 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that rape of a child is unconstitutional and the death penalty should be abolished.  

Final Words:Lowest Age of Consent in the US

With the implementation of minimum marriage ages in all 50 states in September 2019, the USA has finally reached its goal.

Child marriage occurs in the USA every year in counties where parents could persuade a “sympathetic” judge to recognize the marriage, even in extreme cases between 11-year-old girls and old men before the age of consent (16–18) only applied outside of marriage. 

According to Alaska and North Carolina legislation, the youngest marriage age is now 14 years old. This makes it the de facto minimum consent age in the country.

Read also: Is bigamy legal in the United States?

External resource: Uslegal

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