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Iowa Romeo and Juliet Law

Have you ever wondered if high schoolers could get arrested for having sex with each other? If you think about it, freshmen are typically 14 to 15-years old, sophomores 15 to 16-years-old, juniors 16 to 17-years-old, and seniors 17 to 18-years old. The age of consent is 16 in Iowa, meaning anyone younger than 16 cannot legally consent to sexual activity, even if they enthusiastically say “yes.”

With this in mind, if a senior in high school wanted to date a freshman, they could technically get charged for statutory rape and other sex crimes if they have sexual relations. Not only is the freshman below the age of consent, but the senior is likely a legal adult and/or at the age of consent. But luckily, certain laws in Iowa protect young people from facing sex charges for dating their peers.

Under the state’s “Romeo and Juliet” defense, teenagers who engage in sexual activity with each other could avoid getting in legal trouble under limited circumstances. A person can have sex with a 14 or 15-year-old ONLY if they are less than 4 years older than them and do not use force, threats, or coercive tactics. As such, an 18-year-old can have legal sex with a 15, 16, or 17-year-old and avoid the risk of statutory rape charges. A 17-year-old can have sex with a 14, 15, or 16-year-old without facing charges.

Unless they are married, a person who is 18 cannot engage in sexual activity with anyone younger than 15, and a person who is 17 cannot engage in sexual activity with anyone younger than 14.

Can a 20-Year-Old Date a 16-Year-Old in Iowa?

Yes. Once a person reaches the age of consent (16) in Iowa, they can consent to sexual activities with anyone older than them.

Can a 13-Year-Old Date a 16-year-Old in Iowa?

Since Iowa’s “Romeo and Juliet” laws only protect 14 and 15-year-olds from statutory rape charges, it is ILLEGAL for a 13-year-old and 16-year-old to have sex or participate in any type of sexual activity. If authorities find out, the 16-year-old could get charged for criminal sexual abuse.

Can a 15-Year-Old Date a 20-Year-Old in Iowa?

The state’s Romeo and Juliet laws only allow 14 and 15-year-olds to engage in sexual activity with someone who is no more than 4 years older than them. As such, 15-year-olds and 20-year-olds cannot have sex in Iowa because there is a 5-year age gap. Criminal sexual abuse charges may apply as a result.

What Happens If Two 13-Year-Olds Date in Iowa?

Since 13-year-olds are below the age of consent in Iowa, they cannot legally consent to sex and are therefore not allowed to do so in the eyes of the law. These cases are difficult to prove because the state must figure out which partner (or both) has been sexually abused.

Can an 18-Year-Old Date a 16-Year-Old in Iowa?

Again, once a person hits 16-years-old, they can have sex with anyone who meets the age of consent as long as there is no pressure or force involved. As mentioned above, however, a 16-year-old cannot have sex with a 13-year-old. The age exemption only applies to people ages 14 and 15.

Can You Get Jail Time for Statutory Rape?

Statutory rape is generally considered sexual abuse in the third degree, which is a class C felony. This crime is committed when the victim is 14 or 15 years old and the defendant is 4 or more years older than the victim. If convicted, a person is looking at up to 10 years in prison and/or fines ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.

Needless to say, a statutory rape conviction comes with a serious cost. Many times, a sex crime conviction of any kind lands you on the state’s Sex Offender Registry (SOR). In Iowa, however, a person under age 20 who is convicted of third-degree sexual abuse will not appear on the SOR.

Key Points to Consider Before Engaging in Sexual Activity

Don’t get it twisted ― even if two people are following the rules above, they could still get arrested if their sexual activities were nonconsensual. Coercing, threatening, forcing, and otherwise pressuring people into having sex with you is illegal under all circumstances. As you can see from the penalties listed above, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

To best ensure your sexual activities are safe and consensual, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Was one person pressuring the other? Were both partners free to give consent? Were both of us sober from alcohol and drugs? Do we both have similar mental abilities?
  • What is the age difference between me and them? What is the difference in maturity levels and sexual experience? Is one preying on another?
  • How is one or both of us feeling about the sexual contact?
  • Does one hold a position of authority over the other? Is authority used to gain sexual contact (e.g., a coach, teacher, or boss)?
  • What would the legal consequences be if a report were filed and the police got involved?
  • How would our families involved react? Would we lose our parents’ support?
  • Are counseling, information on pregnancy prevention and STI testing, prevention and treatment, and other life skills needed?

If you are facing sex crime charges in Iowa, hire a tried-and-true team of lawyers with 50+ collective years of experience. Reach out to us online or at (319) 499-5524 today!

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