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How do Pennsylvania’s statutory rape laws compare nationally?

Pennsylvania’s laws governing prohibited sexual activity with minors—commonly known as statutory rape—are in many ways in keeping with other states in the country. This can be seen in information from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, which provides a state-by-state breakdown of four basic components of sex crimes involving minors. These components are:

  • Age of consent 
  • Victim’s minimum age
  • Maximum age difference between parties
  • Minimum age for defendants

Pennsylvania is in the majority when it comes to age of consent. It, along with 38 other states, does not have a single age at which minors can plainly consent to sexual intercourse with another person of any age. Rather, these states establish the age at which it may be possible for a minor to engage in legally consensual sex, depending on the age difference between the parties. 

In 27 states, including Pennsylvania, there is an established minimum age for victims. This means that, below a certain age, a person can never legally participate in sexual intercourse. The minimum age in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio and Tennessee is 13. Only Alabama and South Dakota have lower ages of consent, set at 12 and 10, respectively. 

Pennsylvania, along with 38 other states, does not have a minimum age for defendants in its statutes. Only 11 states have such laws.  

The statutes discussed in this post assume that the parties involved do not qualify for any marital exemptions. These laws exist in some states and may relieve a party from prosecution.  

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Gregory R. Gifford
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