This article provides a brief overview of North Carolina laws prohibiting certain consensual and nonconsensual sexual acts. Keep in mind that "consent" is a legal term defined by state criminal law. For example, it is impossible for anyone under the age of 16 to consent to sexual activity in North Carolina.
History of Prohibiting Consensual Sexual Activity
Most states have laws prohibiting certain types of consensual sexual activities, but sodomy bans applicable to same-sex partners have been ruled unconstitutional under Lawrence v. Texas (2003). Two years later, the North Carolina Supreme Court followed suit in State v. Whiteley (2005) and also ruled the prohibition of same-sex acts unconstitutional. In North Carolina, prohibited consensual sexual activity laws today include bans on indecent exposure and bestiality.
North Carolina Prohibited Consensual Sexual Activity Laws
Review the following table to learn more about North Carolina's prohibited consensual sexual activity laws, and see FindLaw's Sex Crimes section for related information.
Sodomy Laws Applicable to
|North Carolina repealed its sodomy criminalization statute in 2005.
Penalty for Sodomy
|Not applicable, unless sodomy is committed against an animal. Under N.C. Gen.Stat. § 14-177, if the crime is against a beast (or animal), the crime is considered a "Crime Against Nature," and is punishable as a Class I felony.
HIV Exposure and Compelled Testing for Offenders
|Under N.C. Gen.Stat. § 15A-615, after the indictment or the finding of probable cause on an offense involving nonconsensual vaginal, anal, or oral intercourse or intercourse with a child under the age of 12, or under N.C. Gen.Stat. § 14-202.1 with a child under the age of 16, a victim may request testing for HIV or other STIs. If the court finds probable cause that a significant risk of transmission exists, the court shall order testing.
Other Crimes Relating to Consensual Sex Acts
- Indecent Exposure: Under N.C. Gen.Stat. § 14-190.9, indecent exposure is punishable as a Class 2 misdemeanor except for when (A) when the person is at least 18 years old and willfully exposes their private parts in any public place in the presence of any other person less than 16 years old for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire; in these cases, the crime is a Class H felony.
Other Crimes Relating to Non-Consensual Sex Acts
- Statutory rape of a child by an adult: Under N.C. Gen.Stat. § 14-27.23, a person is guilty of statutory rape of a child by an adult if the person is at least 18 years of age and engages in vaginal intercourse with a victim who is a child under the age of 13 years. A person convicted of this is guilty of a Class B1 felony and in no case shall the person receive an active punishment of fewer than 300 months.
- Statutory rape of a person 15 years old or younger: Under N.C. Gen.Stat. § 14-27.25, a defendant is guilty of a Class B1 felony if the defendant engages in vaginal intercourse with another person who is 15 years of age or younger and the defendant is at least 12 years old and at least six years older than the person, except when the defendant is lawfully married to the person. However, this crime will be punished as a Class C felony if the defendant engages in vaginal intercourse with another person who is 15 years of age or younger and the defendant is at least 12 years old and more than four but less than six years older than the person, except when the defendant is lawfully married to the person.
- Sexual activity with a student: Under N.C. Gen.Stat. § 14-27.32, if a defendant, who is a teacher, school administrator, student teacher, school safety officer, or coach, at any age, or who is other school personnel, and who is at least four years older than the victim engages in vaginal intercourse or a sexual act with a victim who is a student, at any time during or after the time the defendant and victim were present together in the same school, but before the victim ceases to be a student, the defendant is guilty of a Class G felony, except when the defendant is lawfully married to the student. Consent is not a defense to this charge.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
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North Carolina Prohibited Consensual Sexual Activity Laws: Related Resources
Need More Help? Contact an Attorney
Criminal prosecution for a sex crime can have serious consequences for a defendant. If you have been arrested for a sex crime, you may consider contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney. If you cannot afford to hire an attorney, you still have the right to counsel and the public defender's office in your county will be able to assist you.