When it comes to age, can a 16 date an 18? The answer to this question depends on the state you live in as well as a few other factors. That makes the answer to this question more complicated than you think. Although the answer varies from state to state, several common threads run through all jurisdictions.
The age of consent is different in every state. The age at which consensual sex is legal falls between 16 and 18 years old. Once a person reaches the age of consent in their state, they are considered to be competent to have sexual relations with anyone that is at or above the age of consent.
Of course, not all dating relationships are sexual. Under the law, there is no prohibition of a relationship between people that would otherwise violate age of consent laws. Despite this being technically true, entering into any sort of relationship with a person below the age of consent has the potential to cause significant headaches. Even if you are not guilty of a crime, you could face intense scrutiny or even unfair criminal charges is a real possibility.
What are Romeo and Juliet Laws?
Romeo and Juliet laws, which are also commonly known as close-in-age laws, are exceptions to the age of consent and could protect you from prosecution for statutory rape. As is the case with the age of consent, the specifics of these laws also vary from state to state. In general, these laws provide exceptions to statutory rape laws. These exceptions apply when a person that is close in age to a minor.
For example, some states have laws that allow even older people to date younger ones, as long as they are not married. In other states, you can legally date someone who is 16, but only if you agree that there is no chance of future intimacy. In other states, the age of 18 is legally considered a dividing line between whether or not you can date. And if you are 16, you may only date someone 18 or younger.
The question about what your state’s laws say about legal age differences is much easier to answer when you look at the states that allow it. Understanding these general principles is useful, but it can only tell you so much. It is important to consider the laws of your state when deciding whether or not to enter into a relationship with someone under the age of 18.
What About the Other States That Do Not Have Romeo and Juliet Laws?
Romeo and Juliet laws are common, with most states having enacted some form of close-in-age law. However, not every state has adopted this approach. States like Missouri do not have a Romeo and Juliet law. That means there is no wiggle room when it comes to the age of consent. Proximity in age will not serve as a defense to statutory rape. That said, the vast majority of states have adopted Romeo and Juliet laws.
See Also: Is Speeding a Crime?
What About Federal Law?
State laws address the issue of the age of consent when it comes to sexual relationships involving someone under the age of 18. However, there are ways that federal law could also put a person in jeopardy. In fact, a person dating someone younger than they are that is protected by state Romeo and Juliet laws could run into trouble under federal law in some cases.
Federal law prohibits traveling with a minor across state lines for the purposes of sex. That means that a relationship that is legal in one state could be problematic simply by crossing state lines. There are also issues regarding federal child pornography laws. A person that is not in jeopardy of arrest for having a sexual relationship with a minor due to close-in-age laws could still violate the federal prohibition of child pornography by recording or distributing images of an encounter.
So How Can a 16 Year Old Date an 18 Year Old?
In the states with Romeo and Juliet laws, you can date on intimate terms as long as you meet specific criteria. In other states, the answer is a little more complicated. If Romeo and Juliet laws don’t apply and you are not married to the person you are dating, you could face legal jeopardy for having a sexual relationship with someone under the age of consent.
The parents of a minor are not the only ones who might object to these relationships. The age of consent is a matter of state law. States have historically had mixed feelings about allowing young adults to engage in adult relationships. The same is true for the federal government. The federal government could become involved in these cases when a couple crosses state lines. The same is true for those who send electronic communications that include sexually explicit material. Whether or not you can date someone under the age of 18 depends on where the two of you live. In many states, the Romeo and Juliet laws are in place to protect young people. And while they may be more lenient than parents, they are not always friendlier.
For more legal advice, it is essential to talk to an attorney.