Youth Services Law

Mandated Reporting Age of Consent

Group of young teenagers

An incident from Vermont illustrates a not-uncommon conundrum for mandated reporters, deciding when to report sexual activity by minors above the age of consent. The pastor of a church learned of consensual sexual activity between a minor in the church and the church’s youth pastor. Because the girl was 16 year old, the age of consent in Vermont, the pastor’s lawyer initially told him that he did not need to report it.

In this instance, the legal advice was wrong. Vermont’s age of consent is 16, except when the child “is entrusted to the actor’s care by authority of law.” 13 V.S.A. § 3252(d) (2018). Then the age of consent is 18. In the case above, because the youth pastor was in a position of authority, the age of consent was 18, not 16.

Consensual sex by minors is a complicated issue for mandated reporters. Every state has an age below which a minor’s consent is irrelevant. Those statutory rape laws and the exceptions are specific to each state. Many have an exception for young adults and older minors. Vermont, for example, does not criminalize sex where one teenager is younger than 19 and the other is at least 15 years old. 13 V.S.A. § 3252(c) (2018). Georgia, by contrast, also has 16 as its age of consent, O.C.G.A. § 16-6-3 (2019) but the state does not require a report to authorities when the minor is at least 14 and the adult is no more than 4 years older. O.C.G.A. § 19-7-5 (2019).

Whatever state you are in, do not just assume that the age of consent settles the question of your mandated reporter responsibilities. Check for exceptions and quirks (AgeOfConsent.net is one place to start) and contact your attorney or your local child protection agencies if you have any questions.

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