NRS 200.364 is the Nevada law that sets the age of consent to sixteen (16). With some exceptions, this means that children aged 15 or younger cannot legally agree to have sex. The statute states that any kind of penetrative sex is automatically against the law when it is:
committed by a person 18 years of age or older with a person who is 14 or 15 years of age and who is at least 4 years younger than the perpetrator.
Adults age 18 or older who have unforced sex with children aged 14 or 15 risk being sentenced as a Nevada sex offender for the Nevada crime of statutory sexual seduction (NRS 200.368) (a.k.a.statutory rape). But there is a "close-in-age" exception where adults can have consensual sex with children under age 16 as long as the child is no more than four (4) years younger than the adult.
Adults who sexually touch children short of penetration face criminal prosecution for the Nevada crime of lewdness with a child under 16 (NRS 201.230), which can be punished as harshly as rape. And even after children reach age 16, Nevada law prohibits sexual conduct between them and their schoolteachers or school staff.
In this article, our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys discuss various legal topics related to age of consent, including:
- 1. Age of consent
- 2. Statutory sexual seduction (statutory rape)
- 3. Close-in-age exception (Romeo & Juliet law)
- 4. Lewdness with a child under 16
- 5. Sex between teachers and students above 16
- 6. Fighting criminal charges
- 7. Marrying age
- 8. Raising the age of consent
Sixteen (16) is the age of consent in Nevada.1 Therefore, children age (15) or younger in Nevada cannot legally consent to penetrative sexual conduct. It is irrelevant if the particular child is mature emotionally or if the child initiates the sexual conduct.
"Age of consent" laws are meant to deter adults from seeking out underage sex partners. This is because children are generally not mature enough to make intelligent and informed decisions regarding the physical and emotional risks of having sex.
Statutory rape (legally called "statutory sexual seduction") occurs when an adult at least 18-years-old both:
- has consensual penetrative sex with a child aged 15 or 14, and
- is at least four (4) years older than the child2
If the sex was not consensual, then the defendant would instead face Nevada rape charges (NRS 200.366). Rape (legally called sexual assault) carries harsher penalties than statutory rape.3
Note that Nevada's statutory sexual seduction laws apply to all types of sexual conduct involving penetration. It makes no difference if the adult and child are opposite- or same-sex. Examples of penetrative sex include:
- vaginal intercourse
- oral sex (fellatio or cunnilingus)
- anal sex
- inserting body parts or objects (even just slightly) into a person's vagina or anus
- penetrative sex with animals4
A person may be found guilty of statutory rape even if he/she genuinely believed the child was at least 16. It is not a defense to statutory rape charges that the child lied about being of age.5
The penalties for statutory sexual seduction in Nevada under NRS 200.368 depend on the age of the defendant. If the defendant is 21 or older, statutory rape is prosecuted as a category B felony in Nevada. The sentence is:
- one to ten (1 - 10) years in Nevada State Prison, and
- possibly up to $10,000 in fines, and
- Nevada Tier 3 sex offender (NRS 179D.117) status
But if the defendant is younger then 21, then courts punish statutory rape as only a gross misdemeanor in Nevada. The penalty carries:
- up to 364 days in jail and/or up to $2,000 in fines, and
- Nevada Tier I sex offender (NRS 179D.113) registration6
Nevada law recognizes that two similarly-aged teenagers should be able to engage in consensual penetrative sex without fear of criminal prosecution. This is why Nevada's statutory seduction laws pertain only to adults who are at least four (4) year older than the child.
Example: Jamie is an 18-year-old high school senior who is in a sexual relationship with 15-year-old high school sophomore Kelly. Even though Jamie at 18 is an adult -- and even though Kelly at 15 is under consenting age -- Jamie is not guilty of statutory sexual seduction because their age difference is less than four (4) years. In short, Jamie and Kelly fall under the "close-in-age" exception.
This close-in-age exception is also called a "Romeo and Juliet" law. Note that this "close-in-age" exception in Nevada statutory rape cases is relatively new law: It was instituted only in 2015.7
Adults who sexually touch children in a way that falls short of penetrative sex face lewdness charges. The most common lewdness example is groping.
Penalties for lewdness turn on the age of the child. If the child is under 14, the defendant is prosecuted for a category A felony in Nevada. A first offense carries:
- life in prison with the possibility of parole after ten (10) years,
- possibly a fine of up to $10,000, and
- sex offender status
But there is no possibility of parole if the defendant already has a prior conviction for the same or comparable sex offense. It does not matter if the prior offense was in Nevada or another jurisdiction.
If the minor is fourteen (14) or fifteen (15) years old, then lewdness with a minor is a category B felony. It carries the same penalty as statutory sex by an adult age 21 or older:
- one to ten (1 - 10) years in prison,
- possibly a fine of up to $10,000, and
- sex offender status8
Nevada has specific laws that generally forbid "sexual conduct" between students who have reached the age of consent and school staff that are at least age 21.The Nevada crime of sexual conduct between secondary school students and teachers (NRS 201.540) and the Nevada crime of sexual conduct between college students and teachers (NRS 201.550) are meant to deter teachers, coaches, volunteers, and school administrators from taking advantage of their power imbalance over students.9
The "sexual conduct" that NRS 201.540 and -.550 forbids includes:
- penetrative sex (scroll up to section 2 for a full definition)
- oral-genital contact
- contact with the unclothed genitals or pubic area for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of either person
- sado-masochistic abuse
- lewd exhibition of unclothed genitals
- any lewd or lascivious act upon the body10
Student-teacher sex is prosecuted as a category C felony in Nevada. The punishment includes:
- one to five (1 - 5) years in prison, and
- possibly up to $10,000 in fines, and
- sex offender status11
If a member of the school staff has sexual relations with a student under 16, then he/she would face charges of statutory rape or lewdness. Scroll up to section 2 and 4 for more information on these crimes.
Nevada judges understand that many people who are charged with statutory rape or lewdness with a child may very well be innocent. The following represent just a few of the defense strategies an attorney may employ when fighting allegations of sexual conduct with an underage child:
- False accusations: Many defendants charged with statutory sexual seduction or lewdness in Nevada are wrongly accused. Sometimes the motivation is anger, revenge, or to change the outcome of a child custody hearing. In many cases, the defense attorney can find evidence of the accuser's motivations to lie through old text messages or eyewitnesses. If the defense attorney can persuade the D.A. that the allegations were fabricated, the case should be dismissed.
- Age of consent: A person should not be convicted of statutory rape or lewdness with a minor if the alleged victim in the case was at least 16. If the D.A. fails to establish through birth certificates or other records that the alleged victim was under age 16, the criminal case should be dismissed.
- No sexual conduct occurred: A statutory rape charge cannot stand without penetrative sex. And a lewdness charge cannot stand without sexually-motivated touching. Perhaps the defendant innocently touched the accuser's shoulder or brushed by the accuser by accident, and the accuser misconstrued the touching as sexual. As with every criminal case, the prosecution has to prove a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt before the judge can hand down a conviction. If the defense attorney can show that the prosecution's case is too weak to meet this burden, the charges should not stand.
It is no defense to statutory rape or lewdness with a minor charges if the defendant honestly believed that the victim was at least 16. Even if the victim lied about his/her age, the adult in the encounter can still be prosecuted for having sexual relations with him/her.12
The age of majority in Nevada is 18.13 Therefore, people aged 18 or older get can married in Nevada without needing anyone else's permission.
Children who are 17- or 16-years-old may get married only if they get the consent of their parent or guardian. The parent or guardian would need to be present at the wedding or else give their consent through a notarized document.14
Meanwhile, children under the age of consent (15 or younger) may get married only with judicial approval as well as the consent of their parent or guardian.15
Like Nevada, the majority of U.S. states recognizes 16 as the age where children can legally consent to have sex. Currently, there is no popular initiative to raise the consenting age in Nevada.
However, other lawmakers in other states are seeking to raise the age of consent so it matches the age of majority (18). For instance, Indiana State Representative Karlee Macer has recently proposed a bill that would raise her state's consenting age from 16 to 18.16
Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney...
If you have been accused of violating Nevada age of consent laws, call Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free meeting. We will discuss how they may be able to persuade prosecutors to reduce your charges or even drop them altogether so your criminal record stays clean.
Arrested in California? Go to our article on the California age of consent and statutory rape laws (Penal Code 261.5 PC) and California age of consent laws.
Arrested in Colorado? Go to our article about the Colorado age of consent and statutory rape laws.
- NRS 200.364(10); Manning v. Warden, Nev. State Prison, 99 Nev. 82, 86, 659 P.2d 847, 849 (1983)("NRS 200.364 now defines statutory sexual seduction and specifies sixteen as the age of consent for sexual intercourse, anal intercourse, cunnilingus or fellatio.")
- NRS 200.364; NRS 200.368.
- NRS 200.366.
- NRS 200.364.
- Jenkins v. State, 110 Nev. 865, 877 P.2d 1063, (1994)(A mistake of fact regarding the child's age is not a defense.)
- NRS 200.368.
- NRS 200.364; Nevada Assembly Bill 49 (2015).
- NRS 201.230.
- NRS 201.540; NRS 201.550.
- NRS 201.520.
- NRS 201.540; NRS 201.550.
- NRS 200.364; NRS 200.368; Jenkins v. State, 110 Nev. 865, 877 P.2d 1063, (1994)(A mistake of fact regarding the child's age is not a defense.).
- NRS 129.020; State v. Hughes, 127 Nev. 626, 627, 261 P.3d 1067, 1070 (2011)("The Legislature regularly defines 'minor' as a person under 18 years of age.").
- NRS 122.020.
- NRS 122.025.
- Emily Ketterer, Bill to raise age of consent proposed again, Nuvo (Jan 5, 2018).