A 17 year old male had sexual relations with a 15 year old girl. The sex was consensual. But, if the girl for some reason were to file criminal charges, which she very successfully can, the Romeo and Juliet law might just save the male who would have otherwise been prosecuted for statutory rape, an offence that can ruin the male’s life forever.
Why the Romeo and Juliet law came into existence?
Before the Romeo and Juliet law came into existence, the boy in the example discussed above would have been charged with statutory rape, a felony offence that would have canned him for a 10-20 year prison sentence, a guarantee that he will stay on the sex offender list when he gets out and just a very difficult life even once he serves his sentence and is released.
If the sex was consensual and the boy was only one or two years older (up to 4 in some states) than the minor female, why should he be punished so severely. People make mistakes, especially when they are 17. When the girl is younger only by a year or two or three or four, it would be unfair to say that the boy was much more an adult than the girl. This is why after a lot of lobbying the Romeo and Juliet law was introduced.
Under the Romeo and Juliet law, as long as the sex wasn’t forced, the accused male will probably receive a much more lenient sentence of say 1-4 years.
If saved by the Romeo and Juliet law, what relief could the accuse possibly experience?
Will not have to register as a sex offender – This is probably one of the biggest advantages that a Romeo and Juliet law, if applied successfully, can offer to the accused. Going on the sex offender list will mean that the accused has a very poor chance of securing even reasonably good employment. Besides the obvious financial hardship, the ever present social stigma of being known to all as a sex offender can ruin the mental state of a person.
In some cases, Romeo and Juliet laws might not completely be able to prevent a person’s name from going on a nationwide sex offender list but what it can do is limit the time that the name will stay on the list, thereby offering respite at least afterwards in life. If time on the sex offender list is limited by the Romeo and Juliet law, the duration that the name will stay on the list will usually last for a year, five years or 10 years, depending on the circumstances and severity of the case.
Considering these factors, a Romeo and Juliet law can be a true lifesaver.
Reduction of severity of crime from felony to misdemeanor – While having a misdemeanor in one’s history will definitely not be ideal, it will be exponentially better than having a felony on their record. When convicted of a felony, the potential for good employment, sound financial health and acceptable social status, all free fall to the lowest possible point it can reach in anyone’s life.
Romeo and Juliet laws have the power, in some cases, to remove that enormously heavy “felony” tag off your shoulders.
In certain cases, the Romeo and Juliet law has even succeeded in reducing the sentence in such a manner that the accused goes from being a felon facing a arduous prison sentence to one that just walks free after paying a fine, serving a probationary sentence or even after doing community service!
Romeo and Juliet Law by State
Please note that it will not be possible for us to provide all details for all 50 states. Also, please understand that the Romeo and Juliet law is arbitrarily used, meaning that it may not always apply in a certain situation. Below, we have given basic details on when the Romeo and Juliet law could be applicable in each of the states in America.
If you are in a situation where you or someone you know could benefit from the Romeo and Juliet Law, we strongly recommend that you use the interactive lawyer’s question box displayed at the top of this post. Using that will put you in touch with Bar approved lawyers who can provide you with answers and recommendations that you can use with confidence.
*In all States discussed below, the Romeo and Juliet law is only applicable if the sex was consensual.
Romeo and Juliet Law California
- Age difference between the two minors should not be more than three years
- Both offender and victim need to be minors
- The law cannot exonerate the offender but only reduce charges and sentences, like knocking down a felony charge to a misdemeanor charge
- Not knowing the victim’s age can be (sometimes) used as a defense by the offender. California is one of very few states in America that even allows the possibility of this defense angle
Romeo and Juliet Law Texas
- Offender should be over the age of 17
- The victim should be at least 15 years old
- The age difference should not exceed four years
- If successfully applied, Romeo and Juliet law will prevent the offender’s name from going on a sex offender list
- The law in Texas will however not prevent statutory rape charge proceedings from going forward
Romeo and Juliet Law Florida
- The victim must be at least 14 years old
- Age difference between victim and offender shouldn’t be more than four years
- If victim was 14-15 years at the time of the act, the offender will face criminal charges for the sexual offence
- If the victim was 16-17 years at the time of the act, the sex can be considered consensual as long as the offender’s age falls between 16 and 23 years
- Not knowing the age of the victim can also be offered as a fact for mitigation, however with no surety that the court will accept it as a defense
Romeo and Juliet Law New York
- If the victim was between 15 and 16 years of age, the offender cannot be older than 21 for the Romeo and Juliet law to be applicable
- If the victim was between the age of 11-14, the offender cannot be more than 17 years of age for the law to apply
- While the law can prevent felony charges, the accused will still face sexual misconduct criminal charges (misdemeanor)
- Not knowing of the victim’s age cannot be used as defense according to the Romeo and Juliet law in New York
Romeo and Juliet Law Illinois
- Age difference between offender and victim cannot be more than five years
- Not knowing the age of the victim can be used as a defense in the court of law
- Even if the accused knew of the victim’s age, as long as that age was less than 17, first time offences are only considered a misdemeanor
Romeo and Juliet Law Pennsylvania
- Victim needs to be 13 or older and a minor
- Offender should not be more than four years older than the victim
- Not knowing age of victim cannot be used as a defense in the State of Pennsylvania
Romeo and Juliet Law Ohio
- Both victim and offender should be between 13-18 years of age
- Age difference between victim and offender cannot exceed four years
- Romeo and Juliet law can prevent felony charges and limit sentencing to misdemeanor charges
- Even a strong case of not knowing the victim’s age cannot be used as a defense in the State of Ohio
Romeo and Juliet Law Georgia
- The victim can only be 14 or 15 years old
- The offender has to be less than 18 years of age and also not more than 4 years older than the victim
- Statutory rape charges will be reduced if Romeo and Juliet law is successfully applied in defense
- Not knowing the victim’s age cannot be used as a defense in Georgia
Romeo and Juliet Law North Carolina
- The victim can be of any age, as long as he/she is a minor
- The age difference between victim and offender cannot be more than four years
- Not knowing age of the victim cannot be used as a defense in the State of North Carolina
Romeo and Juliet Law Michigan
- The victim must be older than 13 years
- Age difference between victim and offender cannot be greater than five years
- If successful, Romeo and Juliet Law in Michigan will prevent the offender’s name from going on a sex offender list
- If successful, the law will also considerably reduce sentences, down to a usual maximum of 2 years in prison, along with a small fine
Romeo and Juliet Law New Jersey
- The victim must be a minor of at least 13 years of age
- The offender must not be more than four years older than the victim
- Not knowing of the victim’s age cannot be used as a defense in the New Jersey
Romeo and Juliet Law Virginia
- If the victim was sodomized, his or her age cannot be less than 13 and not older than 16
- The offender who committed the sodomy needs to be 18 years or younger
- The age difference between victim and offender cannot be more than four years
- If the victim was a victim of a sexual act other than sodomy, he or she needs to be between 14 and 17 years old
- Offender must not be older than victim by more than four years
- The offender must also not have any prior sexual convictions. Otherwise, he or she won’t qualify for Romeo and Juliet law in Virginia
We will provide similar information to all the remaining states as well, in the coming days. Please bookmark this page for updates.
Also, if you feel you have been a victim of a sexual crime but do not know how to proceed to seek legal relief and recourse, please start with this resource here.