Teenagers are growing up these days faster than ever – or they think they’re growing up. While teens may think they can make certain decisions for themselves, the legal system dictates the legal age of consent in New York. This is the legal age at which a person can consent to engage in a sexual relationship. If you’re facing criminal charges in New York, it’s important to understand the statutory rape laws and those regarding the age of consent.

In our latest blog, Nassau County, Long Island criminal defense attorney Gianni Karmily explains New York’s age of consent laws and the possible penalties if convicted. When facing conviction for such a serious offense, it’s critical to put your defense in the best hands. To schedule a free consultation with one of our criminal defense attorneys, call (516) 630-3405 (Great Neck Office) or (516) 614-4228 (Hempstead Office) today.

What is Statutory Rape?

Statutory rape refers to sexual relations where one participant is below the age of consent, which is the legally defined minimum age at which an individual is considered capable of consenting to sexual acts. This legal concept recognizes that minors are not mature enough to make informed decisions about sexual activities. In statutory rape cases, the consent of the younger individual is not considered a valid defense, as the law deems them incapable of giving informed consent due to their age.

What is the Age of Consent in New York?

Age of consent laws were created to protect minors because they do not have the mental or emotional capacity to be involved in an adult relationship. As of 2023, the New York age of consent is 17 years old. This means that if a person is under 17, they cannot legally consent to sexual relations. Therefore, under New York’s statutory rape law, a person who engages in sexual activity with a minor can face severe criminal penalties, regardless of whether the minor is a willing participant.

Another important age of consent law in New York revolves around the legal age at which a person can be married. In New York, the age of consent to marry was previously 17, with parental or judicial consent. However, the state increased the age to 18 in 2021, so if two 18-year-olds wish to be married, they can legally obtain a marriage license in New York.

Age of Consent History in the United States

The age of consent in the U.S. sets the legal limit for when a person can agree to sexual activity and varies by state: it’s 16 in 31 states, 17 in 7 states, and 18 in 12 states. Statutory rape occurs when an adult engages in sexual relations with a minor below this age.

Historically, these laws have evolved from much lower ages in the late 19th century to protect minors from exploitation and abuse. Significant changes in these laws occurred after a 1995 study revealed that over 50% of teen pregnancies in 15 to 17-year-olds were fathered by men over 20, highlighting the importance of enforcing the age of consent.

What Are Romeo and Juliet Laws?

Romeo and Juliet laws protect young couples from severe statutory rape charges when they engage in consensual sex if they are close in age. These laws acknowledge that while teens can make poor decisions, they should not always face harsh legal consequences for consensual relationships. Romeo and Juliet laws apply when both individuals are minors or when there is a small age gap between a minor and a slightly older partner. The laws vary by state, but they generally aim to lower or eliminate the severity of statutory rape charges in cases where the age difference is minimal and the relationship is consensual.

Does New York Have a Romeo and Juliet Law?

New York does not have a Romeo and Juliet law, but the state does have its own close-in-age exemption. So, if an adult is within just a few years of the minor’s age, they can be charged with a lesser criminal offense. In these cases, the offender could be eligible for probation and serve a shorter prison sentence compared to a typical statutory rape charge.

It’s important to understand that while New York follows a close-in-age exemption, it’s not an excuse for an adult to engage in sexual intercourse with a minor. If arrested, the offender can still be charged with a criminal sexual act, but the penalties are less severe. If you’ve been arrested for engaging in consensual sexual intercourse with a minor, you need the best legal counsel available. Long Island criminal defense attorney Gianni Karmily understands the seriousness of these charges and will aggressively fight for your rights.

Statutory Rape Penalties Under New York Penal Law

what is the age of consent in new york

Listed below are the penalties one could face if convicted of statutory rape in New York, according to New York Penal Law Article 130. Keep in mind that while these offenses are considered felonies, the punishments can vary based on the offender’s criminal history and other circumstances surrounding the sex offense.

Class B Felony

Rape in the first degree is a class B felony and is categorized as a violent felony, meaning the offender can face a maximum prison sentence of 25 years. A person can be charged with rape in the first degree if they have sexual intercourse with someone:

  • By force;
  • Who is physically or mentally helpless and therefore unable to consent;
  • Younger than 11 years old; or
  • Younger than 13 years old and the offender is 18 years or older.

Class D Felony

Second-degree rape is a class D felony and is also considered a violent felony offense that can result in up to seven years in prison. An individual can be charged with this criminal sexual act if they engage in sexual intercourse with someone:

  • Who lacks the physical capacity to consent due to a mental disability; or
  • Who is 15 years or younger, and the offender is 18 years or older.

Class E Felony

Rape in the third degree is a class E felony offense and is punishable by up to four years in prison. A person can face third-degree rape charges in New York if they engage in sexual intercourse with someone:

  • Who cannot provide consent due to their age or mental capacity;
  • Who doesn’t give consent not due to incapacity; or
  • Who is younger than 17 years of age and the offender is 21 years or older.

Call a Nassau County, Long Island Sex Crime Attorney at the Law Firm of Gianni Karmily Today

age of consent in ny

If you’ve been charged with a sex crime in New York, the Nassau County, Long Island sex crime attorney from the Law Firm of Gianni Karmily is ready to defend you. Sex crimes are harshly prosecuted, especially when they involve younger adults. Not only can an offender face lengthy prison sentences and large fines, but they will in most instances be forced to register as a sex offender. These penalties follow a person for the rest of their life, which is why it is crucial to take your defense strategy seriously. To schedule a free consultation with our experienced criminal defense attorney, call (516) 630-3405 (Great Neck Office) or (516) 614-4228 (Hempstead Office) today.