Romeo and Juliet law is a silver lining to prevent minors who have not reached the age of consent from being charged with statutory rape when they engage in sexual activity.
The law is named after the tragic story written by William Shakespeare and talks about two young lovers, Romeo and Juliet. This article will discuss the Romeo and Juliet law, the states with these laws, and how it applies to prosecuting sexual crimes between minors and people close in age.
Romeo and Juliet Law
The Romeo and Juliet law refers to laws in certain US states that set the acceptable age limits for minors and persons close in age who engage in sexual activities, affording them a level of protection from facing statutory rape charges.
Romeo and Juliet laws introduced an acceptable age gap between minors who engage in sexual activity. Without the law, persons below the age of consent who engage in sexual activity would breach the law and face statutory rape charges by default.
Age of consent in Florida
The age of consent in Florida is 18 years. At this age or above, a person can legally consent to sexual activity in Florida.
Romeo and Juliet Law Florida
The age of consent in Florida is 18 years; therefore, any sexual activity with a person below 18 constitutes statutory rape. But there are a few exceptions to this rule—the close-in-age provision and the Romeo and Juliet law Florida.
In Florida, consensual sex between a person 24 years or younger and another 16 or 17 years old is not considered illegal due to the close-in-age provision.
While persons convicted of statutory rape receive a sentence and are required to register as sexual offenders, the Romeo and Juliet law removes the later requirement of the mandatory registration as a sex offender under particular circumstances.
The law sets an acceptable age difference of 4 years between the offender and the Alleged Victim. To qualify under the Florida Romeo and Juliet law, the following requirements must be met.
- The victim must not be below the age of 13 years
- The age difference between the offender and the victim must not exceed four years
- The sexual activity must be consensual
- The offender doesn’t have a previous sex offense conviction requiring registration as a sex offender.
Note that the law provision doesn’t condone or legalize such acts. The offender must petition the court by providing written proof that they qualify under Florida’s Romeo and Juliet law.
The state attorney and the prosecutors’ office must be informed of the motion to be exempted no less than 21 days before the sentencing date, the disposition of the offense, or a hearing concerning the motion.
The judge will decide on the motion in sentencing, determining the offense, or a hearing on an appeal. If the court finds that the person complies with the criteria, the judge will grant the request to be exempted from registering as a sex offender.
Age of consent in Texas
The age of consent in the State of Texas is 17, and this means persons of age 17 or older are considered adults and can consent to sexual activity without fear of prosecution.
Romeo and Juliet Law Texas
Sexual activity with a minor in Texas will see the offender prosecuted for statutory rape, that is, regardless of whether there was consent or not. The designation as a ‘minor’ is determined by the age of consent in Texas, 17.
The Romeo and Juliet Law Texas provides an acceptable age difference within which consensual sexual activity involving a minor(s) is exempt from prosecution. The allowable age difference is three years.
To qualify under Romeo and Juliet law in Texas, the following requirements must be met.
- The minor must not be younger than 14 years
- The difference in age must not be more than three years
- The sexual activity must be consensual
- The sexual activity must not be with a close blooded relative
In a situation where a 15-year-old and 18-year-old date, consensual sexual activity will be excused from prosecution under the Texas Romeo and Juliet Law. This is because the age difference between them is three, and the minor is over 14.
On the other hand, dating between a 13 year old and a 16 year old involving sexual activity will not qualify even though the age difference is three years, the minor is below the age limit of 14.
Romeo and Juliet law Oregon
In the state of Oregon, the age of consent is 18 years. Sexual activity involving a person below this age is equal to statutory rape, except the circumstances that qualify under Oregon’s Romeo and Juliet law.
The Romeo and Juliet law Oregon sets an allowable age difference of 3 years, where sexual activity involves a minor. The requirements include:
- There must be consent
- The age difference is below three years
It means where a person faces prosecution for statutory rape, Romeo and Juliet law is a viable defense so long as they can prove the sexual activity was consensual. The age difference between the offender and the alleged victim must also not exceed three years.
Romeo and Juliet law New York
The age of consent in the state of New York is 17. Effectively, a person who is younger than 17 is legally incapable of consenting to sexual activity. This means consent is not an accepted defense in statutory rape prosecution.
New York is one of the states with no close-in-age or Romeo and Juliet laws. It means a respite from prosecution is not given to minors who engage in sexual activity irrespective of it being consensual.
However, the age difference is considered in deciding whether a person faces first-degree, second degree or third-degree felony statutory rape. Also, persons tried and convicted as juveniles are not required to register as sex offenders.
Punishment for Rape in New York
As earlier indicated, age plays a role in how rape and statutory rape are classified and the corresponding penalties.
A first-degree rape is a class B felony, which carries a penalty of up to 25 years in prison. A rape crime is classified as a first degree when:
- victims are younger than eleven years old or
- they are younger than 13 while the offender is aged 18 or over.
For a rape crime to be classified as second-degree, the alleged offender must be 18 years or older and the victim below 15 years old. Their age difference must also be more than 4 years.
For example, a 20 year old and a 14 year old dating which involves sexual intercourse. It would be a second-degree rape classified as a Class D felony, and the punishment could be as long as seven years in prison.
Third-degree rape is a crime in cases where the accused is aged at least 21 years old and is a sexual partner with someone younger than 17 years of age, for example, a 16-year old and a 21-year old. This crime is classified as a Class E felony, punishable by four years of prison.
Romeo and Juliet laws are a legal provision to prevent minors and primarily teenagers from the lifelong effect of being convicted of rape crimes and being on the sex offenders register.
It is important to note that not all states have this law, and in some cases, such as Florida, the law only scraps the requirement to register as an offender, but penalties for the crime are still imposed upon conviction. Hence, it is crucial to know the Romeo and Juliet laws in your jurisdiction, so you don’t breach the law.
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