Sixteen is the age of consent in Nevada. People who engage in sexual activity with children younger than that may be prosecuted for statutory rape. Nevada also has laws that prohibit sexual relations between teachers and students.
In a prosecution for statutory rape, it's irrelevant whether the victim consented, or even initiated the activity. Sex with an underage person is illegal, period. Of course, someone who commits a sex act against another person, whether an adult or a child, by means of force or fear can expect to be prosecuted for sexual assault or assault and battery. (For more information on Nevada's assault and battery laws, see our articles on misdemeanor assault and battery in Nevada, and felony assault and battery in Nevada.
Adults who engage in sexual activity with younger children (those under the age of 14) will almost certainly face charges for sexual assault or abuse. Both of these crimes carry stiff penalties (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 200.366, 200.508 (2018).)
Getting Legal Guidance
The information in this article provides an overview of the law relating to statutory rape. If you are trying to determine the legality of any kind of conduct, make sure to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. The law is complex and changes regularly.
Statutory sexual seduction. A person commits the crime of statutory rape (called statutory sexual seduction in Nevada) by engaging in consensual sexual intercourse, oral or anal sex, or any other sexual penetration with a person who is 14 or 15 years old when the defendant is age 18 or older and at least four years older than the victim. For example, a 19-year-old who engages in heavy petting with a 14-year-old may be prosecuted for statutory rape. Statutory rape is punished as a felony if the defendant is age 21 or older. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 200.364, 200.368 (2018).)
Sexual assault. A person commits the crime of sexual assault by engaging in sexual intercourse, oral or anal sex, or any other sexual penetration with a child younger than 14 years old when the defendant is age 18 or older and at least two years older than the victim. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 200.366 (2018).)
It is also a crime in Nevada for a person age 21 or older in a position of authority at a public or private school, college, or university (such as a teacher, instructor, coach, or administrator) to engage in sexual conduct with a student younger than 16 years of age. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 201.540, 201.550 (2018).)
While Nevada is known for its lenient prostitution laws, child prostitution (prostitution of a person under the age of 18) is not tolerated.
People who contact or communicate with children under the age of 16 in an effort to engage in sexually explicit talk or sexual activity may be convicted of the felony crimes of child enticement or solicitation. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 201.560 (2018).)
Defendants charged with statutory rape have the usual defenses available to all criminal defendants, such as "Someone else committed this crime," or "The alleged conduct did not occur." One or more of the following defenses may also apply.
It is a defense to any charge of statutory rape that the defendant and the child are married. This defense is part of the marital rape exemption. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 200.373, 201.540, 201.550.)
In many states, lawmakers have enacted "Romeo and Juliet" exceptions to protect young people from criminal prosecution based on consensual sex with their peers. Under Nevada's laws, people under the age of 18 who engage in consensual sex with those close in age cannot be convicted of statutory rape, and if the defendant is under the age of 21, the crime is a misdemeanor. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 200.364, 200.366, 200.368 (2018).)
Of course, as explained above, adults who commit sexual intercourse against young children (usually, children under 14 years old) can be convicted of sexual assault or abuse. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 200.366, 200.508 (2018).)
Nevada follows the majority rule that a defendant's mistaken belief that a child is over the age of consent is no defense to a charge of statutory rape, even if the child actively misrepresents his or her age. (Jenkins v. State, 110 Nev. 865, 877 P.2d 1063 (1994).)
Statutory rape is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $2,000, or both, if the defendant is over the age of 18 but under the age of 21. If the defendant is over the age of 21, statutory rape is a category B felony, punishable by one to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
It is a category C felony for a teacher or school or university employee to engage in sexual conduct with a child younger than 16. The crime is punishable by one to five years in prison, and a fine of not more than $10,000.
Sexual assault of a child under the age of 14 is a category A felony, punishable by 35 years' to life imprisonment.
(Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 193.130, 193.140, 200.366, 200.368, 200.508, 201.540, 201.550 (2018).)
People in Nevada who are convicted of any sex crime are required to register as sex offenders. (Nev. Rev. Stat. §§ 179D.097, 179D.441 (2018).)
A conviction for statutory rape can have serious consequences, including time in prison or jail, sex offender registration, and a criminal record. If you are charged with statutory rape, you should contact a local criminal defense attorney in Nevada. The law can change at any time, and an attorney will be able to tell you what to expect in court and how to best protect your rights.
If you are a victim of sexual assault or rape, contact Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) for online help and local resources.
Updated September 11, 2018