Earlier this week, prosecutors charged a 20-year-old Alabama man with 12 counts of sodomy. The charges were based on acts that were committed over a nine-month period with a 14-year-old girl.
The police chief acknowledged that there was no force involved in the sodomy and that both parties were willing participants, but that because of the alleged victim’s age, she could not legally consent to the behavior.
Sodomy between consenting adults is legal in all 50 states. However, individuals are still subject to prosecution for illegal acts of sodomy. This includes engaging in sodomy with a minor.
For example, Penal Code 286 PC, California’s sodomy law separately punishes acts of sodomy with a minor depending on the age of the alleged victim (and sometimes even on the age of the defendant).
This is because minors are legally deemed unable to give consent. This means that even if a minor willingly engages in sodomy, the person with whom he/she engages is still subject to prosecution under Penal Code 286 PC, California’s sodomy law.
That said, if the defendant honestly and reasonably believes that the minor is an adult (that is, 18 or older) and that minor is a willing participant to the act, that mistake of age will serve as a defense. But due to social concerns about protecting young children, this mistake defense doesn’t apply to minors who are 14 or under.