Age of Consent in Washington and Statutory Rape Laws

What is the age of consent in Washington state? This article answers all of your questions regarding the age of consent and statutory rape laws.

In 1988, the age of consent was established to protect minors from explicit contact and sexual abuse in Washington state.

This comprehensive article describes what the age of consent in Washington is, as well as the penalties for violating the law. Additionally, you will learn if there are any exceptions to the age of consent law in Washington. 

What is the Age of Consent in Washington?

In Washington, the age of consent is 16 years old. 

The age of consent is the minimum age in which an individual is legally old enough to consent to participate in sexual activities with a partner who is eighteen years or older. Simply put, if a person is fifteen years or younger, s/he is not legally old enough to give consent to participate in any sexual activity. 

Exceptions to the Age of Consent Law

There are some circumstances in which the Age of Consent is higher than 16. If sexual conduct occurs in the following circumstances, the Age of Consent Law is violated either in the first (RCW 9A.44.093) or second degree (RCW 9A.44.096):

  • For sexual activity between a foster parent and a foster child, the age of consent is increased to 18 years old. In other words, even if an individual is 16 or 17 years old, that person cannot give legal consent to share in sexual activity with his/her foster parent until s/he is 18.
  • For sexual activity to occur between a teacher or school administration employee and a student, the age of consent is 21 years old. If a teacher or school administration employee engages in sexual activity with a student who is under 21 years old, the employee violates the Age of Consent Law. 
  • If the perpetrator is at least 60 months older than the victim and is in a supervisory position over minors and/or cares for the welfare, health, education, or recreational activities for minors, and abuses the supervisory relationship to cause the person under 18 to engage in sexual activities.

Does Washington Have a Romeo and Juliet Law?

Some states have a Close in Age Exemption Law, otherwise known as a Romeo and Juliet Law. This law allows individuals under the age of consent to give their consent to participate in sexual activities if the partner is close in age to them. 

However, Washington state does not have a Close in Age Exemption Law.

Because Washington does not have a Romeo and Juliet Law, it is illegal for anyone under sixteen years of age to participate in any sexual activity, even if the couple is close in age. If the law is violated, the partner who is over the age of 16 may be accused of statutory rape.

What if one partner is fifteen years old and eleven months, and the other partner is over sixteen? Because the younger partner is not yet 16 years old, the older partner may be accused of statutory rape. There are no age-related exceptions to the law in Washington unless the couple is married.

Exceptions to the Romeo and Juliet Law in Washington State

There are few exceptions to the Close in Age Exemption Law in Washington, all of which involve marriage between two individuals who are relatively close in age.

However, according to RCW 26.04.010, both individuals must be at least eighteen years old to get married without parental permission. With parent permission, the couple can get married if both individuals are at least seventeen years old. If anyone under seventeen years old gets married in Washington state, the marriage is considered void unless a superior court judge of the county rules that the couple can get married because of necessity.

In other words, if a person who is sixteen years old or younger chooses to marry someone close in age to them, they must receive a court order for the marriage and sexual contact to be legal.

When is the Statutory Rape Law Violated in Washington State? What are the Penalties?

Crime + DegreeDefinitionSeverity of CrimeMaximum Penalty
Rape of a child in the first degree (RCW 9A.44.073)When a person has sexual intercourse with a minor who is under 12 years oldClass A FelonyLife in prison and/or a fine of $50,000
Rape of a child in the second degree (RCW 9A.44.076)When a person has sexual intercourse with a minor who is at least 12 years old but less than 14 years oldClass A FelonyLife in prison and/or a fine of $50,000
Rape of a child in the third degree (RCW 9A.44.079)When a person has sexual intercourse with a minor who is at least 14 years old but less than 16 years oldClass C FelonyFive years in prison and/or a fine of $10,000
Child Molestation in the first degree (RCW 9A.44.083)When a person has sexual contact with a minor who is less than 12 years oldClass A FelonyLife in prison and/or a fine of $50,000
Child Molestation in the second degree (RCW 9A.44.086)When a person has sexual contact with a minor who is at least 12 years old and is less than 14 years oldClass B FelonyTen years in prison and/or a fine of $20,000
Child Molestation in the third degree (RCW 9A.44.089)When a person has sexual contact with a minor who is at least 14 years old and is less than 16 years oldClass C FelonyFive years in prison and/or a fine of $10,000
Sexual misconduct with a minor in the first degree (RCW 9A.44.093)When a person has sexual intercourse with a minor who is at least 16 years old and is less than 18 years old and not married to the perpetrator, (2) when the perpetrator is at least 60 months older than the victim, is in a significant relationship with the victim, and abuses his/her supervisory position to engage in sexual intercourse with the victim, (3) when a school employee has sexual intercourse with an enrolled student who is older than 16 and younger than 21 years (4) when a foster parent has sexual intercourse with his/her foster child who is at least 16 years old.Class C FelonyFive years in prison and/or a fine of $10,000
Sexual misconduct with a minor in the second degree (RCW 9A.44.096)When a person has sexual contact with a minor who is at least 16 years old and is less than 18 years old and not married to the perpetrator, (2) when the perpetrator is at least 60 months older than the victim, is in a significant relationship with the victim, and abuses his/her supervisory position to engage in sexual contact with the victim, (3) when a school employee has sexual contact with an enrolled student who is older than 16 and younger than 21 years (4) when a foster parent has sexual contact with his/her foster child who is at least 16 years old.Gross MisdemeanorOne year in prison and/or a fine of $5,000

Charged with Statutory Rape? Consult an Expert Attorney

If you are accused of violating the law for the age of consent in Washington state, you need to contact an attorney as soon as possible. 

Will & Will is a husband and wife criminal defense law firm serving the Seattle area. Court and Michelle Will are caring, dedicated individuals who personally work with clients to bring about the best possible outcome. Not only do they both care about every one of their clients, but they have successfully resolved thousands of cases.

If you have been charged with a sex crime in the state of Washington, contact Will & Will today.

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