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Age of Consent: What Happens When Partners are Close in Age?

Written laws are sometimes rigidly worded. They can make broad, blanket decrees that don’t account for nuance or exception.

This fact is quite evident when it comes to the age of sexual consent. In some states, for instance, an 18-year-old could be arrested for having consensual sex with their 17-year-old partner. This could happen even if they were already dating, and the older partner just had a birthday.

Many other states, however, provide flexibility with their age of consent rules. They understand that physical age isn’t always the same as emotional age, and they recognize that common sense sometimes trumps staunchly written laws.

Here is a broad overview of how South Carolina handles the problem of sexual partners being close in age, even if they are technically an adult and a minor.

Age of Consent Law in South Carolina

Generally, it’s safe to assume that if one partner is 18, then they should not engage in sexual activity with someone who is 17 or younger. Doing so can result in a statutory rape charge.

There are, however, some exceptions. Many states, including South Carolina, have “Romeo and Juliette” laws that provide wiggle room. In South Carolina, someone who is 18 can legally engage in consensual sex with someone who is between the ages of 14 and 17.

Unlike some other states with Romeo and Juliette laws, there is an abrupt cutoff at 19.

Sex Between Minors

The state also allows sexual activity between consenting minors. Partners between 14 and 17 years old should not face criminal penalties for engaging in this behavior.

No matter what the circumstance, the state will not tolerate anyone having sex with someone under the age of 14.

Age of Consent and Possible Child Pornography Allegations

These days, people of all ages have instant access to image and file sharing. This fact has changed the landscape of sexual behavior. Consenting partners often send one another explicit images as part of their mating ritual.

Teenagers are not immune to these realities, and many would argue that they use their technology more than most.

Put together, all these facts create a problem. It is illegal to create, share, and even own sexually explicit images of minors. What happens, then, when an 18-year-old swaps pics with a consenting 16-year-old?

People can use the law to meet their desired outcomes. An angry parent can easily use this scenario to accuse the older party of engaging in child pornography.

Legally, the older party should be protected under South Carolina’s Romeo and Juliette laws. The age of consent statute states that an 18-year-old cannot be prosecuted “. . . the person is eighteen years of age or less when the person engages in consensual lewd or lascivious conduct with another person who is at least fourteen years of age.” Trading explicit images falls directly into the category of “lascivious” conduct.

If you are facing unfair statutory rape or solicitation of a minor charges, set up an appointment with Masella Law Firm, P.A. today. We can investigate the facts in your case and help reveal the whole story. You should not face criminal allegations based on a technicality, and we will work hard to preserve your freedom and reputation.

For a free consultation, call us at (803) 938-4952 or contact us online.