An individual's consensual sexual activities are none of the state's business - for the most part. Throughout history, most states have made it a crime to engage in so-called "unnatural" sex acts under anti-sodomy laws, which tended to single out same-sex partners.
These laws criminalized consensual sexual activities between people of such sexual demographics, even in the privacy of their own homes.
In 2003 the U.S. Supreme Court heard Lawrence v. Texas. In that case, a man challenged his conviction in Texas for having sex with another man in the privacy of his own home, which violated a state anti-sodomy law. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that law unconstitutional and unenforceable. In the wake of that decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, all anti-sodomy laws, as they apply to consenting adults, became unconstitutional and unenforceable. As a result, in all states, including Rhode Island, it is no longer illegal for same-sex couples to engage in consensual sexual activities.
Continue reading for more information about laws related to sexual activities in Rhode Island.
Rhode Island Laws Concerning Sexual Activity
Under Rhode Island law, it is no longer prohibited for same-sex couples to engage in consensual sexual activities. Sexual activities that do not involve consent remain illegal.
Review the chart below for more information about laws related to sexual activities in Rhode Island. Also, see FindLaw's Sex Crimes section to learn about prohibited non-consensual sex acts.
|There are none.
|Under 11-10-1, sodomy with an animal is treated as a felony, punishable by imprisonment for between seven and 20 years.
HIV Exposure and Compelled Testing for Offenders
Under 23-11-1, knowingly exposing another person to sexually transmitted diseases is prohibited. Violations are treated as a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $100 and/or imprisonment for a period of up to three months.
Under 11-37-17, victims of sexual assault involving penetration may request that the perpetrator be tested for STDs, including HIV/AIDS. However, the perpetrator must first be convicted before they will be compelled to undergo testing. STDs for which the perpetrator may be tested include HIV/AIDs.
| Under § 11-34.1-2, a person is guilty of prostitution when they engage in sexual activity with another person in exchange for compensation. They are also guilty of doing so if they offer to do so. Violations of this section are treated as a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for up to six months and/or a fine of between $250 and $1,000.
Loitering for prostitution
|Under § 11-34.1-4, a person is prohibited from loitering in any space for the purposes of attempting to attract customers for prostitution. Prohibited behaviors include lingering on streets to engage passersby or people driving by in conversations concerning sexual services in exchange for compensation. Violations of this section are punishable by imprisonment for up to six months and/or a fine of between $250 and $1,000. Subsequent offenses are punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to one year and/or a fine of between $500 and $1,000.
Age of Consent to Sexual Activity
|Under § 11-37-6, the age of consent to sexual activity is:
Under circumstances where the parties are both between the ages of 16 and 20, they cannot be more than 30 months apart in age.
- If the parties to the sexual activity are between 16 and 20 years old, the age of consent is 16 years of age,
- If one of the two parties is 21 years of age or older, the age of consent is 18, or
- If one of the two parties is in a position of authority, the age of consent is also 18 years of age.
First degree sexual assault
|Under § 11-37-2, a person cannot give consent to sexual activity if they are mentally disabled. Regardless of whether the mentally disabled person gives consent, the law will not recognize that consent as valid. Under such circumstances, the offender could face a charge of first-degree sexual assault, regardless of whether there was the appearance of consent in the sexual activity.
In cases where one party falls over the age of consent and the other does not, one is also guilty of first-degree sexual assault. This is known as statutory rape.
|Under § 11-45-2, it is illegal for someone to expose themselves in public. Violations are punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to one year and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Any subsequent violation is punishable by a term of imprisonment for up to three years and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Offenders may also be required to attend counseling.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the decisions of higher courts, the enactment of newly signed legislation, and by other means. While we strive to ensure the accuracy of these pages, you may also want to contact a Rhode Island criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Research the Law
Consider reviewing the following resources for more information about Rhode Island laws, including those related to sexual activities:
- At Rhode Island Law, you'll find links to all laws of the state, including those related to sexual activities.
- At Official State Codes, you'll find links to the official online statutes (laws) in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Rhode Island Prohibited Consensual Sexual Activity Laws: Related Resources
Consider reviewing the following more information about legal issues related to sexuality, including sexual activities:
Need More Help? Contact an Attorney Today
If you have been accused of a sex crime, it's important to know how this will affect your life. You will likely want to contact a qualified criminal defense attorney. If you are facing charges, you will need the assistance of such a lawyer. They can help you with all aspects of the legal issues you'll face, while they can also assist you at trial, if you do stand trial for criminal charges related to a sexual activity.