Pennsylvania Age of Consent (As of 9/2017)

romeo_julietPennsylvania’s laws regarding the legal age of consent can be confusing. This is because the age of consent varies based upon the ages of the individuals involved, as well as the conduct involved.

For example, the “standard” age of consent in Pennsylvania is 16, which means that 16 is the lowest age at which a person can legally consent to sexual conduct with anyone older than him or her. However, 16 is not the lowest age at which a person can legally consent – a 15-year-old can legally consent to sexual relations with an 17-year-old under Statutory Sexual Assault laws. And, even though a 15-year-old can legally consent to intercourse with an 17-year-old under said laws, he or she cannot consent to being photographed in a sexually explicit manner.

It’s surprising how much incorrect information exists in the internet regarding PA’s age of consent. In order to overcome this confusion and be as clear as possible, we will discuss the age of consent as it pertains to specific statutes. Please read carefully.

Age of Consent for Sexual Conduct

Firstly, no one is permitted to engage in any sexual conduct with any person who is 12 years of age or younger. This constitutes rape, a felony of the first degree.

Below you will find Pennsylvania’s statutes (laws) that dictate when various forms of sexual conduct are legal. Sexual conduct is legal if the persons involved are of an age where they can legally consent to such conduct, and do in fact consent to such conduct.

Below these laws, we have summarized the age of consents that are applicable to persons aged 13 to 19. Please note that these conditions may not be applicable to you depending upon your role with the other person, e.g., if you are a teacher, a coach, or a volunteer or employee of a nonprofit association.

1) § 3122.1. Statutory sexual assault (traditional sexual intercourse)

Except as provided in section 3121 (relating to rape), a person commits a felony of the second degree when that person engages in sexual intercourse with a complainant to whom the person is not married who is under the age of 16 years and that person is either: (1)  four years older but less than eight years older than the complainant; or (2)  eight years older but less than 11 years older than the complainant.

2) § 3123(a)(7)  Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse (deviate sexual intercourse, i.e., oral, anal and object penetration)

A person commits a felony of the first degree when the person engages in deviate sexual intercourse with a complainant who is less than 16 years of age and the person is four or more years older than the complainant and the complainant and person are not married to each other.

3) § 3125(a)(8) Aggravated indecent assault (digital (finger) penetration)

Except as provided in sections 3121 (relating to rape), 3122.1 (relating to statutory sexual assault), 3123 (relating to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse) and 3124.1 (relating to sexual assault), a person who engages in penetration, however slight, of the genitals or anus of a complainant with a part of the person’s body for any purpose other than good faith medical, hygienic or law enforcement procedures commits aggravated indecent assault if the complainant is less than 16 years of age and the person is four or more years older than the complainant and the complainant and the person are not married to each other.

4) 3126(a)(8) – Indecent Assault (sexual contact)

A person is guilty of indecent assault if the person has indecent contact with the complainant, causes the complainant to have indecent contact with the person or intentionally causes the complainant to come into contact with seminal fluid, urine or feces for the purpose of arousing sexual desire in the person or the complainant and the complainant is less than 16 years of age and the person is four or more years older than the complainant and the complainant and the person are not married to each other.

CONDITIONS APPLICABLE TO THE ABOVE 4 STATUTES

**Note – Birth dates of both persons should be used to determine the age difference)

A) If you are 19 years old or older, any person less than 4 years younger than you can legally consent to sexual relations with you. There is no maximum age.

B) If you are 18 years old, any person less than 4 years younger than you can legally consent to sexual relations with you. There is no maximum age.

C) If you are 17 years old, any person less than 4 years younger than you can legally consent to sexual relations with you. There is no maximum age.

D) If you are 16 years old, the earliest age that a person can legally consent to engaging in sexual conduct with you is 13. There is no maximum age.

E) If you are 15 years old, the earliest age that a person can legally consent to engaging in sexual conduct with you is 13. You cannot legally engage in sexual conduct with any person who is 4 or more years older than you.

F) If you are 14 years old, the earliest age that a person can legally consent to engaging in sexual conduct with you is 13. You cannot legally engage in sexual conduct with any person who is 4 or more years older than you.

G) If you are 13 years old, the earliest age that a person can legally consent to engaging in sexual conduct with you is 13. You cannot legally engage in sexual conduct with any person who is 4 or more years older than you.

***Please note that even a communication that establishes an attempt to engage in sexual conduct with a person who cannot legally consent to such conduct with you is a violation of the law under 18 Pa. Code § 6318 (Unlawful contact with minor).

Corruption of Minors (Applicable if You Are 18 Years of Age or Older)

18 Pa. Code § 6301 – CORRUPTION OF MINORS

Perhaps no other offense in Pennsylvania has created more confusion than Corruption of Minors. On October 10, 2010, PA legislature modified the then existing statute by creating two subparagraphs: (1)(i) which relates to conduct that is not forbidden by Chapter 31 (relating to sexual offenses), and 1(ii) which does relate to said conduct.

 § 6301(1)(i) “Whoever, being of the age of 18 years and upwards, by any act corrupts or tends to corrupt the morals of any minor less than 18 years of age, or who aids, abets, entices or encourages any such minor in the commission of any crime, or who knowingly assists or encourages such minor in violating his or her parole or any order of court, commits a misdemeanor of the first degree.”

§ 6301(1)(ii) “Whoever, being of the age of 18 years and upwards, by any course of conduct in violation of Chapter 31 (relating to sexual offenses) corrupts or tends to corrupt the morals of any minor less than 18 years of age, or who aids, abets, entices or encourages any such minor in the commission of an offense under Chapter 31 commits a felony of the third degree.”

In order to violate § 6301(1)(ii), one would have to first violate one of the sex offense statutes under Chapter 31 which include the 4 previously mentioned offenses. So if you follow the age of consent conditions mention above, this would prevent violating those offenses. Interestingly 18 Pa. Code § 6318 (Unlawful contact with minor) falls within Chapter 63, and 18 Pa. Code § 5903 (Obscene and other sexual materials and performances) falls under Chapter 59, so neither of these offenses could trigger a violation of this subparagraph of Corruption of Minors.

A  violation of § 6301(1)(i) can occur even when sexual conduct is not involved. For example, enticing a minor (less than 18 years of age) to drink alcohol or take drugs would violate this statute. The author is unclear as to whether prosecutors can or actually do charge individuals with this offense for engaging in sexual conduct with a minor that is not forbidden by Chapter 31, and plans to do further research on this topic. The plain reading of the statute implies that they could, but it would certainly be nonsensical to permit consensual sex under one statute and forbid it under another. A conviction for this offense does NOT include sex offender registration.

Concluding Thoughts

It’s important to remember that the above discussion involves instances wherein the sexual activity is statutorily legal due to the involved persons’ ages, and due to the actual consent by both persons.  Regardless of age,  non-consensual sexual conduct is strictly forbidden under Pennsylvania law.

It is also important to remember that Pennsylvania law, while permitting certain sexual conduct with persons of a certain age, may also forbid other types of conduct with persons of that age. This other conduct can include taking nude or sexual explicit photos, “sexting“, prostitution, and dissemination of intimate images. In a future blog, we will discuss the distinctions and legal ramifications of sexting and illegal pornography.

Disclaimer:

The materials available at this website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use and access to this website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the firm or any individual attorney

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