Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Iowa's Age of Consent

One of the most frequently wondered but rarely asked questions is: "What is the age of consent in Iowa?" In other words, at what age does statutory rape become legal consensual sex. The simplest answer is 16 years of age in Iowa. Sixteen (16) is Iowa's "age of consent" where the age of the partner (so long as he/she is also over the age of 16) becomes legally irrelevant. While the communities sense of morality may differ depending upon the age gap between the paramours, the law makes no distinction once the consensual partners are 16 years of age or older.

For those under the age of 16 the law has two distinctions: First, anybody 13 years of age or younger is considered to be a "child" under the law and thus, incapable of consent. Any sexual contact of any nature with a "child" will land you in prison and on the sex offender registry for a long time. Lack of knowledge of the "child's" true age, actual consent or even misrepresentations as to the "child's" age are NOT defenses. This is a strict liability crime. Intent is irrelevant. Second, for the ages of 14 and 15, the consenting partner cannot be 4 or more years older than the teen. For example if the teen is 14 years old, the partner must be 17 years old or younger. For a teen that is 15 years old, the partner must be 18 years old or younger. Again, actual consent, lack of knowledge or misrepresentation of the teen's true age are NOT defenses. Intent is irrelevant in these circumstances.

One should also understand and fully appreciate the fact that while Iowa's "age of consent" is 16 years old, Federal law defines a "child" as anyone under the age of 18. It is a federal offense to take sexually explicit photographs or video recordings of anyone under the age of 18 even if the partners are the same age. Thus, two legally consenting 16 or 17 year-old teens cannot legally under federal law, photograph or videotape their "romantic" activities.

Mandatory prison time often awaits those that engage in legally prohibited acts with minors as well as a lengthy, if not lifetime, placement on the sex offender registry. When in doubt, find somebody your own age and understand that if you choose to toe the line and end up over it, intentionally or not, the only legally viable defense is that no sexual contact ever took place.

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