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What are Pennsylvania’s statutory rape laws?

Statutory rape is generally the domain of state law. However, Pennsylvania, along with many other states in the country, does not have any laws that contain the term “statutory rape.” According to the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, these types of sex crimes are instead included in laws that prohibit sexual activity with minors.

Sex offenses that most people would understand as statutory rape generally involve several components: the age of consent, the minimum age of the victim, the maximum age differential between victims and defendants, and the minimum age that a defendant must be for prosecutors to press charges. 

Pennsylvania’s laws include only the first three of these components:

  • Age of consent – 16
  • Minimum age of the victim  - 13
  • Maximum age differential between parties – 4 years
  • Minimum age for defendants – not applicable

When people reach the age of consent, they are considered to be legally capable of consenting to sexual intercourse. The minimum age of the victim establishes the age at which victims are too young to ever be considered to have consensual sex.

The age differential describes the maximum age gap that can exist between the victim and the defendant if the victim is older than the minimum age but younger than the age of consent. For example, if a 14-year-old engaged in consensual intercourse with a 17-year-old, the older party would not face sex crime charges because the two parties are less than 4 years apart in age.

The lack of a minimum age for defendants means that prosecutors can charge defendants with sex crimes regardless of their age. 

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Gregory R. Gifford
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