California Legal Age Of Consent (Legal Age for Consensual Sex)
What is the 2023 Age of Consent in California?
The California Legal Age of Consent for sexual contact is 18 years old.
A total of eleven states, including CA, have set their age of consent at 18 years old, which is the highest legal age of consent in any state.
The age of consent in California is 18, with a misdemeanor if the minor has 3 or fewer years of difference with the major, and potentially a felony if the major is more than 3 years older. The close-in-age rule in California (3 years) do not provide an exception nor provide any defense; it merely lowers the crime to a misdemeanor. Under this law, two minors of the exact same age could both be prosecuted with a misdemeanor. Penalties increase if the minor is under 16 and the major is above 21 or if the minor is more than 3 years younger.
California Close-In-Age Exemption
California has a close-in-age exemption, also known as a "Romeo and Juliet law", to the legal age of consent. This provision allows partners who are close in age, or both under the California age of consent, to engage in consensual sex without fear of prosecution under California age of consent regulations. For more information, read about close-in-age exemptions.
What is the Age of Consent?
The Age of Consent is the age at which a person is deemed by California law to be capable of consenting to, and engaging in, sexual acts. Anyone who engages in sexual activity of any type with a partner under the applicable Age of Consent is breaking the law and can be charged with crimes ranging from a misdemeanor to a felony (statutory rape) depending on the jurisdiction in which they are prosecuted. California's specific laws on the Age of Consent can be found above.
What happens if I violate the California Age of Consent?
If you engage in sexual activity with a minor who is under the California Age of Consent of 18, you can be prosecuted under California sexual abuse laws and charged with crimes ranging from sexual assault or statutory rape to first degree rape, regardless of whether or not the sexual acts were consensual. Depending on the charges, conviction can carry penalties ranging from one to fifty years in prison and registration as a sex offender .
Does the California Age of Consent apply to explicit pictures or videos?
It is important to note that California's Age of Consent does not apply to "sexting", or transmission of explicit photos or video. Producing or receiving explicit photos of minors (any person under age 18) is illegal in California, and all other states, under child pornography laws.
Because the California Age of Consent is also eighteen years old, people who have reached the legal age of consent are also legally allowed to participate in sexting.
Possession of explicit images of an underage person is also illegal under Federal law, and while minors are not typically prosecuted for possession, adults are frequently prosecuted for producing, possessing, receiving, or distributing underage pornography.
What happens if I travel to a state where the Age of Consent is lower?
In most states, the travel or transportation of a minor over state lines with the intention of engaging in sexual activity is in itself a severe misdemeanor or felony. As a result, it is generally not possible to evade a state's age of consent rules by travelling to a different state.
Map of Ages of Consent by State
16 Years Old
17 Years Old
18 Years Old
Need more information? Find data on the age of consent in other states.