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An Introduction to The Romeo and Juliet Law

Romeo and Juliet laws concern young adults or teenagers a few years apart who willingly have sexual relations. The purpose of Romeo and Juliet provisions is to prevent a sexual act that occurred between individuals within a few years of age from being considered a criminal offence, most notably, to prevent it from being considered regarding statutory rape or sexual assault under state and federal laws. The term statutory rape is rarely used today and refers to a sexual act involving one or more individuals under the age of consent. The age of consent varies between jurisdictions. Romeo and Juliet provisions concern incidents in which the younger of the individuals has passed the age of puberty but has not reached the age of consent. Sexual contact in which the younger of the individuals has not passed the age of puberty is typically defined as sexual assault on a child, which is a serious charge with substantial penalties because a child cannot consent to sex. The ages of consent range between 16-18, and they are not the same in every state in the U.S. For example, in Texas, the age is 17; Florida is 18; Kansas is 16. Anyone who has sex with an individual under the age of consent is subject to statutory rape laws, and some wonder how it affects sex between minors.

What is the purpose of Romeo and Juliet laws?

The purpose of Romeo and Juliet provisions is to prevent sexual contact that occurred between individuals with a few years difference in age from being considered a criminal offence or statutory rape. Alternatively, Romeo and Juliet provisions lessen the severity of penalties for such criminal charges. The provisions under this law vary considerably. The age difference or range allowed by a Romeo and Juliet provision is typically between two and four years. In some states, a Romeo and Juliet provision can only apply if the younger of the partners have reached a certain age, such as 15. The state may also require the older of the individuals to be under a certain age, such as 21.

Romeo and Juliet provisions typically do not protect an older individual accused of abusing a relationship that involves the imposition of authority over a younger person. Such a relationship exists between a teacher and his student or a coach and an athlete on his team. Romeo and Juliet provisions also typically do not apply to individuals accused of sexual acts that involve violence or threat of violence by the defendant.

What is the advantage of Romeo and Juliet laws?

One of the most significant protections a Romeo and Juliet provision can offer is a guarantee that a convicted individual will not have to complete sex offender registration. A Romeo and Juliet provision can also decrease the time that a convicted individual has to remain on a sex offender registry. In certain situations, the convicted individual may become eligible to have his name removed from the list of sex offenders early. Generally, when a Romeo and Juliet provision becomes law, a convicted individual can petition the pertinent court or prosecutor to be removed from the state’s sex offender registry roll. A convicted individual typically does not automatically get removed from the roll.

Advocates of the provisions argue that removing qualifying individuals allows states to better determine which individuals should be heavily regulated. Many states limit the rights of defendants to reside in certain neighbourhoods or access public spaces popular among minors, such as parks. Advocates also argue that removing qualifying individuals helps states compile more accurate data about individuals in need of rehabilitative services. The status of sex offender is a significant bar to employment and causes convicted individuals to suffer setbacks in their personal lives.

If you have been accused of having intercourse with a minor or are facing statutory rape charges while yourself being a few years older, the best thing to do is consult with an experienced criminal defence lawyer to review your case. Since Romeo and Juliet laws vary depending on the jurisdiction, statutory rape laws also vary. A criminal defence attorney can discuss the consent laws with you and can possibly help you avoid jail or prison time.

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