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Legality of incest in the United States

Legality of incest in the United States

In the United States, the legality of incest varies widely between jurisdictions regarding both the definition of the offense and penalties for its commission.


In all but two states (and the special case of Ohio, which "targets only parental figures"), incest is criminalized between consenting adults. In New Jersey and Rhode Island, incest between consenting adults (16 or over for Rhode Island, 18 or over for New Jersey) is not a criminal offense, though marriage is not allowed in either state. New Jersey also increases the severity of underage sex offenses by a degree if they are also incestuous, and criminalizes incest with 16-17 year olds (the normal age of consent in New Jersey is 16). Ohio allows incest between consenting adults only when one party is not a parental figure (see table below) to the other.

As of 2010, cases of incest involving consenting adults are often not revealed to outside parties, and therefore prosecutions of these cases do not frequently occur. Cases of parent-adult child incest exposed to law enforcement are usually uncovered by another parent.



The table below summarizes these laws for individual U.S. States and the District of Columbia.


According to a California Supreme Court case, being under the age of 18 in a consensual incestual relationship with an adult causes the minor to be a victim of the crime of incest, not an accomplice to the crime itself. See People v. Tobias (2001) 25 Cal.4th 327 However, this does not include a minor 14 years of age or older as the law was amended by the Legislature to partially overturn the ruling. See Stats. 2005, Ch. 477, Sec. 1. (SB 33).

See also


External links

  • Bratt, Carolyn S. (Fall 1984). "Incest Statutes and the Fundamental Right of Marriage: Is Oedipus Free to Marry?". Family Law Quarterly. American Bar Association. 18 (3): 257–309. JSTOR 25739374.
  • Hughes, Graham. "The Crime of Incest" (PDF). Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Fall 1964. Volume 55, Issue 3 (September), Article 2, p. 322-331.
  • State Criminal Incest Statutes , March 2013. National District Attorneys Association.

Text submitted to CC-BY-SA license. Source: Legality of incest in the United States by Wikipedia (Historical)