"Age of consent" refers to the minimum age a person must be for their agreement to engage in sexual conduct with someone else to be lawful. In other words, when it is legally okay for them to say yes to having sex with an adult.
A common misconception is that the age of consent is always 18. However, the laws differ throughout the country, and in Ohio, the age of consent is 16 years of age. Thus, anyone 16 years of age or older can have sex with someone 18 years of age or older without statutory rape charges being brought on the adult.
What Is Consent?
Generally, "consent" means that a person has voluntarily and consciously agreed to engage in sexual activity with another person. That said, Ohio does not have a specific definition of consent.
However, in terms of Ohio's rape laws, a person is not considered to have given consent in the following situations:
- Their judgment or control was substantially impaired because someone administered to them a drug, intoxicant, or controlled substance;
- They were under 13 years of age at the time of the offense;
- They could not resist or consent because of a mental or physical condition; or
- The alleged perpetrator compelled consent through the use of force or threat
What Is Ohio's Statutory Rape Law?
Statutory rape laws concern circumstances in which an adult engages in sexual activity with a minor. In Ohio, this law is referred to as unlawful sexual conduct with a minor (Ohio Rev. Code § 2907.04). It provides that a person 18 years of age or older is prohibited from having sex with anyone between 13 and 15 years of age.
Under Ohio Rev. Code § 2907.01, sexual conduct is defined as:
- Vaginal intercourse
- Anal intercourse
- Oral sex
- Insertion of any instrument into the vagina or anus
- Penetration, regardless of how slight, of the vagina or anus
There may be instances in which someone under 16 years of age freely agrees to have sex with an adult. However, even though they have given consent, because of the minor's age, the adult could be prosecuted for statutory rape.
That said, once a minor reaches 16 years of age, it is lawful for them to engage in sexual activity with someone 18 years of age or older. Thus, a 16- or 17-year-old can have sex with a 21-year-old or a person any number of years older than them.
What Is Ohio's Rape Law?
Note that the statutory rape law refers to sexual conduct involving adults and minors between 13 and 15 years of age. But what if the child was younger than 13 years of age? In that case, the offense is elevated to rape (Ohio Rev. Code § 2907.02).
A person may also be charged with rape if they had sex with someone 16 years of age or older but received "consent" through the use of force or coercion.
What Are the Penalties for Statutory Rape?
Some people unfamiliar with Ohio's statutory rape law may think that they are free from criminal prosecution because a minor consented to have sex with them. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Even if a person under 15 years of age agrees to engage in sexual conduct, the adult could suffer serious penalties.
In Ohio, the punishments for statutory rape are as follows:
- First-degree misdemeanor (offender is less than 4 years older than the victim):
- Up to 180 days in jail and/or
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- Fourth-degree felony (offender is between 4 and 9 years older than the victim):
- Up to 18 months in prison and/or
- Up to $5,000 in fines
- Third-degree felony (offender is 10 or more years older than the victim):
- Up to 36 months in prison and/or
- Up to $10,000 in fines
In addition to incarceration and/or fines, a person convicted of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor will be required to register as a sex offender. They may be classified as either a Tier I or Tier II offender depending on their age and the age of the victim at the time of the offense.
Registration requirements for these classifications are as follows:
- Tier I: Once a year for 15 years
- Tier II: Every 180 days for 25 years