Tennessee -- Age of Consent
39-13-506. Statutory rape.Statute text
(a) Statutory rape is sexual penetration of a victim by the defendant or of the
defendant by the victim when the victim is at least thirteen (13) but less
than eighteen (18) years of age and the defendant is at least four (4) years
older than the victim.
(b) If the person accused of statutory rape is under eighteen (18) years of age, such a
defendant shall be tried as a juvenile and shall not be transferred for trial as an adult.
(c) Statutory rape is a Class E felony. 39-13-507.
[Acts 1989, ch. 591, § 1; 1990, ch. 980, § 4; 1994, ch. 719, § 1.]
Limited spousal exclusion. Statute text
(a) A person does not commit an offense under this part if the victim is the legal
spouse of the perpetrator except as provided in subsections (b) and (c).
(b) (1) "Spousal rape" means the unlawful sexual penetration of one spouse by
the other where: (A) The defendant is armed with a weapon or any article used or fashioned
in a manner to lead the victim to reasonably believe it to be a weapon; (B) The defendant
causes serious bodily injury to the victim; or (C) The spouses are living apart and one
(1) of them has filed for separate maintenance or divorce. (2) (A) "Spousal
rape," as defined in subdivision (b)(1)(A) or (B), is a Class C felony. (B)
"Spousal rape," as defined in subdivision (b)(1)(C) shall be punished pursuant
to § (c) (1) "Spousal sexual battery" means the unlawful sexual contact by one
(1) spouse of another where: (A) The defendant is armed with a weapon or any article used
or fashioned in a manner to lead the victim to reasonably believe it to be a weapon; (B)
The defendant causes serious bodily injury to the victim; or
(C) The spouses are living apart and one (1) of them has filed for separate maintenance
(7) "Sexual penetration" means sexual intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, anal
intercourse, or any other intrusion, however slight, of any part of a person's body or of
any object into the genital or anal openings of the victim's, the defendant's, or any
other person's body, but emission of
semen is not required; and
Subject: TN Homosexuality Law
Date: Wed, 26 May 1999 12:14:57 -0400
In Tennessee, sexual contact between two people of the same sex isn't expressly forbidden,
but if you look up the law, all forms of fellatio/cunnilingus/sodomy are actually illegal.
The main purpose of that was to make sure that homosexual intercourse is illegal- if you
illegalize all forms of sex except the one that homosexuals don't have the equipment for,
then you're effectively making the practice illegal. Just thought I'd share the little
information I could.
Jury Instructions Regarding Statutory Rape
"Any person who commits the offense of statutory rape is guilty of a crime.
For you to find the defendant guilty of this offense, the state must have proven beyond a
reasonable doubt the
existence of the following essential elements:1
(1) that the defendant had sexual penetration of the alleged victim or the
alleged victim had sexual penetration of the
(2) the alleged victim was at least thirteen (13) but less than eighteen (18)
years of age; and
(3) that the defendant was at least four (4) years older than the alleged victim;
(4) that the defendant acted either intentionally, knowingly or recklessly.2
"Sexual penetration" means sexual intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, anal
intercourse, or any other intrusion,
however slight, of any part of a person's body or of any object into the genital or anal
openings of the alleged
victim's, the defendant's, or any other person's body, but emission of semen is not
["Cunnilingus" means a sex act accomplished by placing the mouth or tongue on or
in the vagina of another.] 4
["Fellatio" means a sex act accomplished with the male sex organ and the mouth
of another.] 5
"Victim" means the person alleged to have been subjected to criminal sexual
"Intentionally" means that a person acts intentionally with respect to the
nature of the conduct or to a result of the
conduct when it is the person's conscious objective or desire to engage in the conduct or
cause the result.7
"Knowingly" means that a person acts knowingly with respect to the conduct or to
the conduct when the person is aware of the nature of the conduct or that the
circumstances exist. A person acts
knowingly with respect to a result of the person's conduct when the person is aware that
the conduct is
reasonably certain to cause the result.8
"Recklessly" means that a person acts recklessly with respect to circumstances
surrounding the conduct or the
result of the conduct when the person is aware of, but consciously disregards, a
substantial and unjustifiable
risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a
nature and degree that its
disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person
would exercise under
all the circumstances as viewed from the accused person's standpoint.9
1. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-506(a).
2. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-11-301(b) and (c) and accompanying Sentencing Commission Comment.
3. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-501(7).
4. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-501(8).
5. This definition is derived from former T.P.I. CRIM -- 9.04, Crimes Against Nature.
7. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-11-106(a)(18).
8. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-11-106(a)(20).
9. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-11-106(a)(31).
1. Statutory rape is a Class E felony. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-506(d).
2. Prior sexual activity of the victim may be asserted as a defense to statutory rape
under Tenn. Code Ann. §
39-13-506(b)(now repealed), if the offense was committed prior to July 1, 1994. If
properly raised as a defense,
the trial judge should utilize T.P.I. - CRIM. 40.12, which appears in the
3. If the definition of an offense within Title 39 does not plainly dispense with a mental
knowledge or recklessness suffices to establish the culpable mental state. Tenn. Code Ann.
The Committee is of the opinion that the definitions of "intentionally",
"knowingly", and "recklessly" should all be
charged for this offense.
AGE TO MARRY/AGE OF CONSENT
by Attorney Jes Beard
Age to Marry --
Under Tennessee law, a person must be at least 16 years old before they can get a marriage
license, and a
marriage license is required for anyone to get married. TCA 36-3-105. For anyone less than
18, both parents or
the guardian or next of kin must join in the application for a marriage license. TCA
36-3-106. If either party is
less than 18, even if both parents sign the application, there will be a three day waiting
period before the marriage
license is issued. TCA 36-3-104.
If the parents or guardian or next of kin won't join in applying for a marriage license,
the couple can still get a
marriage license in Tennessee if the judge of the probate, juvenile, circuit or chancery
court, or county executive
approves it. TCA 36-3-107. The judge of the probate, juvenile, circuit or chancery court,
or county executive
can also waive the three day waiting period required for anyone under 18 to get a marriage
And even if there was some defect in the way the license was issued, or either party was
less than 18 and
failed to get the required approval and the license was issued anyway, the marriage is
still considered legal,
although it can be annulled.
Age of Consent --
Tennessee's rule on the age of consent, the age at which a girl (or boy) can legally
consent to sexual
relations is unforgiving. Under T.C.A 39-13-506, if an adult has sex with a minor
less than 18 years old, and the
adult (anyone older than 18) is at least four years older than the minor, the adult just
committed statutory rape, a
Class E felony, carrying up to six years in prison. (Though the law is supposed to be
applied the same whether
the minor is a boy or girl, these situations almost always involve underage girls, so that
is what I will refer to.)
Now, the unforgiving part of the law is that it makes no difference how old the girl
looked, or said she was, or
what the man thought her age was -- if she was under age, then sex with her was a felony.
The only exception is if the girl is married to her sexual partner. Then it doesn't matter
if she is under age, or
if the man she is with (her husband) is more than four years older than she is.
If the girl was between 13 and 14, then her boyfriend could be convicted of Statutory Rape
if he was four
years older than her, even if he is also a minor.
If the girl is less than 13, then she can not consent to have sex with anyone, and sexual
contact with the girl
is Aggravated Sexual Battery, a class B felony, meaning you could do up to 30 years in
prison, even if the girl
consented, started it, had previously had sex with others or even was working as a
prostitute, and even if you are
a minor yourself when you have sex with her.
What this means is that if the girl is between age 13 and 18 she can consent to have sex
with someone up to
four years older than she is, but for anyone older than that it is statutory rape, and for
any girl less than 13, she is
too young to consent to having sex with anyone. The sole exception is that if the girl was
legally married to her
sexual partner at the time they had sex.
07-2000 New Source: U.S. statutory rape laws is published on the Web by the National
Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information. The booklet, which
requires Adobe Acrobat to read, is located at: