It is illegal for an adult to have sex with someone who is a minor or below the age of consent. These laws are in place to help prevent adults from seeking out young people who may be easily influenced or unable to make wise decisions on their own — or who may feel they have no choice in the matter.
While the law is clear on this point, one issue is whether or not sex is illegal if someone lies about their age and claims to be older than they are. For example, say a 20-year-old male college student has sex with a girl who is 15 years-old.
The argument made against the “lied about age” defense is that the 20-year-old should be able to tell that the girl is not also an adult. Therefore, if he has sex with her, some would argue that he is doing intentionally having sex with a minor.
However, the internet has made this harder. This is where many young people turn for these encounters, and lying is simple. Say the two meet on an app and the girl says that she is 18 years-old. The argument has been made that the male student has not broken the law because, as a court ruled in one case, “where solicitation occurs solely over the Internet, however, it is extremely difficult to determine the age of the person solicited with any certainty.”
The exact scenario has happened. A teen in Indiana met a 14-year-old girl online. He was 19 and she claimed she was 17, making the relationship legal in the state. After it was discovered, the boy ended up on the sex offenders list, but his family fought to get him taken off on the grounds that he thought everything was legal. He did not know she was 14 and she misled him, they claimed.
As you can imagine, cases like this can get very complicated. If you are facing charges, be sure you’re aware of your legal rights.