Answer: it depends on what you mean by “flirting.”
In the article that follows, we’ll explain.
Is It Illegal To Flirt With a Minor? (Discussion)
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What Contact Between An Adult and a Minor Is Illegal?
Flirting with a minor isn’t illegal, so long as the flirting stays within certain boundaries.
An adult is prohibited from engaging in any kind of physical intimate contact with a minor.
The definition of intimate contact in the state matters, as well, as most states go beyond the ultimate act of physical love and have rules against even small types of intimate contact with a minor, such as kissing, sitting on a lap, or even patting someone’s behind, if the contact was intended to be intimate.
Adults are also prohibited from showing minors adult materials (that show or describe intimate acts or nudity).
Sending suggestive messages via email, SMS text, or social media can also result in criminal charges.
While suggestive verbal comments to a minor are more challenging to prosecute, they could still result in trouble for the adult.
If the “flirting” activity doesn’t involve prohibited touching, materials, or communications (or other illegalities such as trespassing or criminal mischief), then the contact wouldn’t rise to the level of criminal.
Are There Exceptions To The Rules That Would Allow An Adult and a Minor To Have Intimate Contact While Flirting?
Yes, there are, in some states.
But not all.
In some states, the rule is absolutely…don’t touch a minor at all for intimate purposes, or in any situation that could be construed as intimate.
In other states, there is what is called a “Romeo and Juliet Exception” (or something similar).
This provides a defense to the older member of the couple, so long as the two are within a certain number of years of age (like 1-3 years).
In general, lack of knowledge of the younger person’s age is not an exception (or a defense).
Other states put other limits on the elder partner if the younger is 17; some states allow intimate relations between 17 year olds and those up to the age of 21, while other states allow the older to be up to 23 years of age.
Each state is different, as far as whether there are exceptions, so you’ll want to check the specifics of the state where you live (or where the contact would occur/has occurred).
We recommend against just trusting a random website (like this one) or other forums if the post says “go ahead, have fun!”, even if the people answering the questions on the forums are attorneys, because different states have different laws on this topic.
What is being gambled is worth some additional investigation.
What Happens If an Adult and a Minor Have Intimate Contact?
Well, aside from the usual potential outcomes of intimate contact (such as disease, babies, or disappointment), nothing in the courts will necessarily happen.
After all, the local authorities would need to have knowledge of the contact to file charges.
In some cases, even if the parents or others discover the relationship, nothing ends up happening because the authorities are never notified.
But if the authorities learn about the contact, a criminal investigation could result.
Should an Adult Flirt With a Minor?
We can’t give legal advice, and this question certainly requires legal advice specific to the jurisdiction where the act would occur.
In general, without having to be jurisdiction specific, the best way for an adult to avoid getting into legal trouble with a minor is to just not mess with a minor in any way, and wait until the individual is 18 years of age.
What If The Parents Are Okay With It?
We aren’t aware of any situation (aside from a marriage) where the parents can consent to illegal acts between their minor child and an adult.
If the parents say go ahead, and then contact between a minor and an adult is somehow reported to the authorities, the adult can still be prosecuted, regardless of what the parents want the prosecutor to do.
The prosecutor (and law enforcement) have the authority to make charging decisions of a criminal nature, and private citizens (like parents) can provide input but have no authority on their own.
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