District of Columbia Prohibited Consensual Sexual Activity Laws

Most of us are well aware that nonconsensual sexual activities like rape and sexual assault are illegal. But could you get in trouble for consensual sexual activity? Does “mooning” your friends at a party constitute indecent exposure? And what about anti-sodomy laws? Here is a brief summary of prohibited consensual sexual activity laws in D.C..

Is Sodomy Legal?

Yes, private adult, consensual and non-commercial acts of sodomy were legalized. The most important case to date concerning sodomy laws is Lawrence v. Texas. In that case, two men were convicted for having sex in a private home, under the Texas anti-sodomy law. The case went to the Supreme Court of the United States, where it was struck down. Because the decision made by the Supreme Court, all anti-sodomy laws in the United States are considered unconstitutional and unenforceable. However, many are still on the books.

Indecent Exposure

D.C. law prohibits indecent exposure. The offense is punishable by a maximum fine of $300 and/or up to 90 days in jail. If, however, the act is knowingly committed in the presence of a child under the age of 16 years old, the penalty increases to a fine of up $1,000 and imprisonment for up to one (1) year. Why is indecent exposure considered "consensual?" This may be considered "consensual" behavior because the actor consents to the behavior, even though the offended person does not.

Statutory Rape

In D.C. statutory rape generally describes the situation in which a consenting adult and a consenting minor engage in sexual relations. Although the contact is consensual, the Districts' criminal law prohibits sexual contact between an adult (someone 18 or older) and a minor (someone younger than 15), even if the sex is consensual.

The following table lists the main provisions of D.C.'s prohibited consensual sexual activity laws, while additional background information follows. See FindLaw's Sex Crimes section for more information.

Sodomy Laws Applicable to N/A (Law found unconstitutional).
Penalty for Sodomy N/A Note: found unconstitutional by Lawrence v. Texas (2003)
HIV Exposure and Compelled Testing for Offenders

22-3902 Upon request of a victim, the court shall order an HIV test from an individual convicted of an offense as defined by §22-3901.

Other Crimes Relating to Consensual Sex Acts
  • 22-1307 Unlawful assembly, profane and indecent language: not more than a fine of $250 or imprisonment for not more than 90 days, or both;
  • 22-1312 Lewd, indecent, or obscene acts: fine not more than $300, imprisonment not more than 90 days, or both;
  • 22-2701 Inviting for purposes of prostitution: $500 fine and between one (1) and 90 days imprisonment;
  • 22-2701.1 Prostitution,
  • 22-2201 Certain obscene activities: fine not more than $1,000, imprisonment not more than 180 days, or both.

Note: State criminal laws are constantly changing -- contact a D.C. sex crimes attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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