Nevada’s legal age of consent is 16 years old. This means that, with very few exceptions, minors below 16 are deemed legally incapable of consenting to have sex. Engaging in sexual intercourse with someone below the age of consent can lead to serious criminal charges.
Five key things to know are:
- Nevada has a Romeo and Juliet exception that allows minors ages 14 or 15 to have consensual sex with partners who are less than four years older than them.
- Having sex with someone too young to legally consent can be prosecuted as statutory rape, lewdness with a child, or sexual assault. Penalties include incarceration, fines, and sex offender registration.
- Nevada law also criminalizes sex between students and teachers, even if the student is 16 or older.
- Potential defenses to sex crime charges include that you were falsely accused or that no sexual contact occurred.
- It is not a defense that the child lied about their age or initiated/consented to the sex.
We illustrate the law in the diagram below:
Below our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What is the age of consent in Nevada?
- 2. What is statutory rape?
- 3. Does Nevada have a “Romeo & Juliet” law?
- 4. What is “lewdness with a minor under 16?”
- 5. What about sex between students and teachers?
- 6. Are there legal defenses?
- 7. How old do you have to be to get married in Nevada?
- 8. Raising the consenting age
Sixteen (16) is the legal age of consent in Nevada.1 Children under 16 cannot consent to penetrative sex.
It is irrelevant if the child is mature for their age. It is also irrelevant if the child initiates the sex.
The legal term is statutory sexual seduction. Statutory rape occurs when an adult:
- Is at least 18 years old,
- Has consensual penetrative sex with a child aged 15 or 14, and
- Is at least four (4) years older than the child2
A person may be found guilty of statutory rape even if they genuinely believed the child was at least 16.3 It is not a defense to statutory rape charges that the child lied about being of age.4
(Rape charges only apply when the sex is not consensual. The legal term for rape is sexual assault.5)
2.1. Penalties for statutory rape
The penalties depend on the age of the defendant. The crime of statutory rape is a category B felony if the defendant is at least 21. The sentence is:
- One to ten (1 – 10) years in Nevada State Prison, and
- Possibly up to $10,000 in fines, and
- Tier 3 sex offender (NRS 179D.117) status
Penalties are less harsh when the defendant is younger than 21. Then statutory rape is a gross misdemeanor. The penalty carries:
- Up to 364 days in jail and/or up to $2,000 in fines, and
- Tier I sex offender (NRS 179D.113) registration6
Nevada has a close in age exception to statutory rape. Children age 14 and 15 can have consensual sex with people less than four (4) years older.
This close-in-age exception is also called a Romeo and Juliet law. It is a relatively new law: It was instituted only in 2015.7
Adults who molest children without penetration face lewdness charges. The most common lewdness example is groping.
Penalties for lewdness turn on the age of the child. It is a category A felony in Nevada if the child is under 14. A first offense carries:
- Life in prison (with the possibility of parole after 10 years unless the defendant has a prior lewdness conviction),
- Possibly a fine of up to $10,000, and
- Sex offender status
Lewdness is a category B felony if the minor is 14 or 15. It carries the same penalty as statutory rape by a 21+ adult.8
Nevada forbids sexual contact between students and school employees who are at least age 21. It makes no difference if the students are at the age of consent. There is always a power imbalance.9
Student-teacher sex is 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 status10
Statutory rape or lewdness charges would apply if the student is under 16.
Many people accused of sex crimes are innocent. From our experience at Las Vegas Defense Group fighting these allegations, the following defenses may be able to get charges reduced or dropped completely:
- False accusations. People may lie about being victims. The motivation may be anger, jealousy, or revenge. Or it may be to change the outcome of a child custody hearing. The defense attorney might be able to show that the accuser is lying. Valuable evidence may include old text messages and eyewitnesses. If the defense attorney can persuade the D.A. that the allegations were fake, the case should be dismissed.
- Age of consent. Statutory sex or lewdness charges apply only if the victim was under 16. If the D.A. fails to establish that the alleged victim was under age 16, the criminal case should be dismissed.
- No sexual conduct occurred. The accuser could have misconstrued the touching as sexual. Or the touching could have been accidental. The prosecution has to prove sexual touching occurred beyond a reasonable doubt. Charges should not stand if the defense attorney shows that the state’s case is too weak.
Honestly believing the child was at least 16 is not a defense. It makes no difference if the child lied about their age.11
The age of majority in Nevada is 18.12 People aged 18 or older get can get married without permission. 17-year olds may marry if:
- The minor has the consent of either parent or the minor’s legal guardian, and
- The minor obtains authorization from a district court after the court holds an evidentiary hearing and makes certain findings13
Like Nevada, the majority of U.S. state laws recognize 16 as the age where children can consent to have sex. There is no initiative to raise the consenting age in Nevada. At least, not at this time.14
Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney…
Accused of violating Nevada age of consent laws? Call our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers.
- 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. Examples of sexual penetration include: Vaginal intercourse, oral sex (fellatio or cunnilingus), anal sex, analingus, fingering, inserting body parts or objects (even just slightly) into a person’s vagina or anus, and penetrative sex with animals.
- 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 200.366.
- NRS 200.368.
- NRS 200.364; Nevada Assembly Bill 49 (2015).
- NRS 201.230.
- NRS 201.540; NRS 201.550. NRS 201.520. The “sexual conduct” that NRS 201.540-.550 forbids includes penetrative sex (scroll up to section 2 for a full definition); oral-genital contact; contact with unclothed genitals or pubic area to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of either person; sadomasochistic abuse; lewd exhibition of unclothed genitals; any lewd or lascivious act upon the body.
- NRS 201.540; NRS 201.550. Learn more about student-teacher sex laws (NRS 201.540) and student-teacher sex in college laws (NRS 201.550).
- NRS 200.364; NRS 200.368; Jenkins v. State, supra.
- 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.”).
- Nevada Assembly Bill AB129 (2019).
- Other lawmakers in other states are seeking to raise the age of consent to 18. Indiana State Rep. Karlee Macer proposed raising the consenting age from 16 to 18. Emily Ketterer, Bill to raise age of consent proposed again, Nuvo (Jan 5, 2018).