The Gray Area of Age of Consent Laws in the US

The Gray Area of Age of Consent Laws in the US

January 6, 2021 Off By Glespynorson

Age of consent laws have been established across the U.S. to discourage and prevent predatory relationships occurring between adults and minors. The age of consent established for any area works to acknowledge that relationships between teens can blur the lines of adulthood and adolescents. Laws establishing the age of consent for every state also make it clear that there need to be boundaries between adults and adolescents, even if they are nearing the age of majority. The gray area comes in when some cases go forward, even when it is clear that the law was not technically violated. A teenage couple where one recently turned 18 can result in a criminal investigation, and subsequent charges. Learn how these gray areas concerning age of consent laws are being addressed and clarified.

When a Person in a Position of Authority is Concerned

In Michigan, you have the standard age of consent, which is 16 years of age. At 16 years old, parties are free to engage in consensual romantic relationships with anyone else also over the age of 16. The exception is when one of the parties involved is in a position of authority. So, for instance, high school teachers cannot engage in romantic relationships with any student under the age of 18. Attorney Patrick O’Keefe has experience with age of consent law violation cases. Don’t assume that you have done anything wrong and instead get the legal advice of a seasoned professional.

When a Teen Couple is Both Under and Over the Age of Consent

It would be hard to remember what high school was like without also recounting all of the high school sweethearts and relationship drama in general. It was not uncommon for upperclassmen to be dating or at least pursuing lowerclassmen, in which there could have also been some age discrepancies. With teenage couples, there could be one person who is over the age of 16 and another who is under the age of 16. In Michigan, that pairing could violate age of consent laws. Even more confusing is the fact that it may only be months before both parties would be over the age of consent. If word were to get out and a prosecutor wanted to prosecute the case, the party who was over 16 could face criminal consequences.

When the Victim and Their Family Do Not Want to Press Charges

Everyone will feel differently and have opposing opinions, but the law is clear. If no age of consent law has been violated, authorities often have their hands completely tied. In some cases, families will go as far as to have couples wed in order to avoid being brought up on age of consent law violations. To an adolescent, who may very well be in the throws of their very first experience with love, the relationship they have with a person many years their senior could actually be consensual in their minds. Age discrepancies in state level age of consent laws can cause open and shut cases to suddenly linger, fester, and re-emerge long after litigants thought it was all over. As one recently decided case in Michigan shows, charges normally reserved for offenses against minors under the age of 16 were also applied to a case involving an older teen. The conviction and sentence in this particular case may not be upheld as being legal, as age of consent law is considered to be concrete.

Although age of consent laws are meant to determine at what age adolescents can take full autonomy of and consent to romantic encounters, there is not a set rule nationwide. Each state sets the age of consent locally and has the discretion to change it at will. The age of consent varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so it is your job to always know what the law is.