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The Age of Consent

Thursday Nov 30th, on Sex Crimes |

Sex crimes are very serious criminal offenses, and anyone who has been accused of committing this type of crime should consult with Albany sex crime lawyers for help fighting charges that could have far-reaching consequences.

One common issue that arises when there are questions of whether or not a sex offense occurred is the question of whether the alleged victim consented to the sexual behavior or not.  There are many circumstances in which consensual behaviors are criminalized not because the alleged victim did not want to engage in the sexual conduct but because the victim was below the age of consent.

How Old Does a Person Have to be to Consent to Sex?

Issues around the age of consent are controversial, and there are different standards and norms which make cases related to the age of consent difficult. 

Just recently, for example, the New York Times published an op-ed entitled Can an 11-Year-Old Girl Consent to Sex.  The article was inspired by a story in France that involved a 28-year-old having so-called consensual sex with an 11-year old.

According to the Times, a child followed a man who had approached her several times with offers to teach her to kiss and more.  She went with the man to his building where the 11-year-old performed oral sex in the hallway and where the man and the girl had sexual intercourse in the man’s apartment.  The man asked to see the girl again after it was over, kissed her on the forehead, and told her not to discuss the incident with anyone.

However, the young girl called her mother in a panic on the way home after realizing what had actually occurred, and her mother subsequently called the police to report the conduct as rape.  The public prosecutor declined to charge the man with rape, though, indicating that “there had been no violence, no coercion, no threat, no surprise.” Instead of being charged with rape, which could potentially result in a sentence of 20 years imprisonment because the victim was under the age of 15, the man will be charged with a sexual infraction that carries a maximum five year prison sentence.

The case has attracted international attention, as well as prompting calls to change French laws. Under these current laws, unlike in many other jurisdictions, when sexual intercourse occurs with a minor — even if that minor is under 15 — the incident is considered to be an infraction and not a crime unless there was “violence, coercion, threat or surprise.”

French laws differ from laws in other jurisdictions. In Belgium, for example, any sexual intercourse is considered rape if it occurs with a child under the age of 14 while in Britain there are special legal protections for children under the age of 13 who are considered unable to give consent to any kind of sexual activity.  It is possible that the law will change in response to the outcry about this case.

However, determining exactly when a young person is capable of consenting, and when it should be a crime to engage in “consensual” sex with someone too young to consent, is still likely to remain a controversial topic.  Any defendant who has been accused of having sexual conduct with a minor should be aware of the severity of the potential consequences and should consult with Albany sex crime lawyers for help in responding to serious charges.

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