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Romeo And Juliet Laws: Ultimate Guide For What You Need To Avoid Jail

Romeo And Juliet Laws By State - What Is The Romeo And Juliet Law - What States Have Romeo And Juliet Laws

What are the Romeo And Juliet Laws?

In this article, you’ll learn about:

  • what sex crimes they excuse minors of
  • how to file a petition for Romeo and Juliet exemptions
  • what these laws DON’T do
  • which states have Romeo And Juliet Laws
  • age gaps for each state to be eligible for these exemptions
  • what defenses you can use for statutory rape and sexual assault
  • what the prosecutors will pin on you

Let’s dig in.

Table of Contents

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Key Points About Romeo And Juliet Laws

  • Romeo & Juliet laws reduce penalties for consensual sex between minors of similar age.
  • The laws apply only to consensual sexual activity between minors.
  • Found in 33 US states, for two minors 2+ years apart in age.
  • Age differences covered by the law vary from state to state.
  • Penalties vary, from one year in jail to a decade in prison.
  • Exemptions from sex offender registration vary by state.
  • Some states allow exemptions for consenting minors from sex offender registration.
  • Does not protect minors from other illegal acts (i.e., drugs and alcohol).
  • Also known as “close in age” laws, they are not intended to condone sex between minors.
  • Protect minors from the harsh consequences of consensual sex with close in age person.
  • Does not provide a defense to other crimes like statutory rape or sexual assault of a minor.
  • Adults engaging in sexual activity with minors are not protected by Romeo and Juliet laws.

Romeo And Juliet Laws

In this section, you’ll learn about:

  • what is Romeo and Juliet Law?
  • what the laws do and DON’T do
  • how the laws vary by state

What Is Romeo And Juliet Law?

Romeo and Juliet laws are laws that provide certain protections to young couples.

In particular, those who engage in consensual sex when both participants are close in age.

These laws are named after the famous Shakespearean play.

They protect teenage couples from being unfairly charged with statutory rape.

Statutory rape is when an adult over the age of 18 has sexual contact with a minor.

Even if both parties have consented to the sexual conduct.

Romeo and Juliet laws prevent young couples from facing severe criminal charges.

Especially when they would get criminal charges simply because of their age.

Each state has its own variations of the law.

But typically Romeo and Juliet laws allow young couples to engage in sexual contact.

And without the fear of prosecution if the age difference is three years or less.

The Romeo and Juliet law applies to a wider age gap in some states.

In some states, couples can have sexual contact with an age gap of up to five years.

And they do so without fear of criminal prosecution.

These laws also provide protections for couples who are close in age but one partner is a minor.

The older partner may not be charged with a crime if the age difference is less than four years.

Romeo and Juliet laws do not legalize sexual activity between adults and minors.

There are still severe penalties for adults who engage in sexual contact with minors.

The laws are not intended to protect adults who are significantly older than their partners.

Romeo and Juliet laws protect young couples who are close in age from statutory rape charges.

These laws provide protections for young couples who engage in consensual sexual contact.

And they ensure that young couples are not unfairly punished for engaging in consensual sex.

What Romeo And Juliet Laws Do

Romeo and Juliet laws:

  • are specific to each state
  • provide protection for two minors having consensual sex from sex crimes
  • only apply to minors who are close in age
  • reduce or eliminate criminal charges for consensual sexual activity
  • focus on the age difference, not the age of the perpetrator
  • protect high school teens who are having consensual sex
  • depend on the age at the time of the offense

These laws only apply to two consenting minors who are close in age.

What These Laws Do NOT Do

Romeo and Juliet laws are state laws that provide certain protections under criminal law.

But only for individuals who engage in consensual sexual activity with a minor.

However, these laws do not do everything.

We need to understand what these laws do and do not do.

This ensures that people are not taking advantage of the law.

Romeo and Juliet laws do not:

  • remove the requirement for minors to get parental consent for marriage
  • decriminalize any form of sexual activity involving minors
  • invalidate statutory rape laws
  • require that all ages of consent be the same
  • provide a defense to all criminal charges involving consensual sex between minors
  • provide relief from sex offender registration requirements
  • provide an affirmative defense to civil liability
  • provide protection from prosecution for all crimes other than sexual offenses
  • provide protection from prosecution for crimes committed by adults with minors

How Romeo And Juliet Laws Vary By State

  1. Age of Consent: Each state has its own age of consent requirements. In some states, the Romeo and Juliet law applies only to those who are under 18 years of age. While in other states, the law may apply to all adults.
  2. Definition of Relationship: Depending on the state, the Romeo and Juliet law may apply to those who are dating, engaged, or married.
  3. Minimum Time Difference: Some states require a minimum age difference between the two individuals that the law applies to.
  4. Impact On Prosecution: Some states allow for defense against certain charges. Only if the accused can prove that the other person was a willing partner and that the relationship was consensual.
  5. Penalty Reductions: In some states, the penalty for statutory rape can get reduced or eliminated if the Romeo and Juliet law applies.
  6. Exceptions: Some states may have exceptions to the Romeo and Juliet law (i.e., if the accused was in a position of authority over the other person).

How Does The Romeo And Juliet Law Work?

The Romeo and Juliet Law can be used to reduce or eliminate criminal penalties.

Especially for engaged or married couples in which one partner is below the legal age of consent.

It protects young people who are in a consensual relationship from facing criminal charges for:

  • statutory rape
  • other sex-related crimes

In order to be eligible for the Romeo and Juliet Law, the couple must meet certain criteria:

  • both partners must be over the age of 14
  • the older partner must meet the age gap requirements for their state
  • both partners must be in a consensual relationship

This means that they both:

  • willingly agreed to the relationship
  • did not feel coerced or forced into it

If these criteria are met, then the couple may be able to avoid criminal charges.

They will need to file a petition with the court.

The court will determine whether the couple can get exempted from the charges.

If the court agrees, then the couple will be able to avoid criminal charges.

The Romeo and Juliet Law does not provide a blanket exemption from all sex-related crimes.

So it is important to review all the case details before filing a petition.

Additionally, the Romeo and Juliet Law does not apply in all states.

So it is important to check the laws of the state where the couple resides before filing a petition.

How To File A Petition For Romeo And Juliet Laws

Let’s say you are a minor facing criminal charges for having consensual sex with another minor.

You may be eligible for relief under the Romeo and Juliet Laws.

It is important to understand the process for filing a petition for the Romeo and Juliet Law.

These steps are an overview of the steps you should take to file a successful petition.

And to have your charges dropped or reduced.

  1. Contact a criminal defense attorney in your state. They can provide you with advice about your legal rights and options. (Fill out the form on this page to get in touch with a criminal defense lawyer.)
  2. Research the specific Romeo and Juliet Law in your state. Make sure you understand the eligibility criteria and any other relevant information.
  3. Gather the necessary paperwork and information. This includes a copy of the criminal complaint, police reports, witnesses’ statements, and other relevant information.
  4. Draft a petition for the Romeo and Juliet Law. This document should include your name, date of birth, the date and location of the offense, and a description of the facts of the case.
  5. Submit the petition to the court. Depending on your state, you may need to file the petition in the county where the offense occurred or the county where you live.
  6. Attend the court hearing. The court will consider the evidence and arguments presented by both sides when making a decision.
  7. Wait for a decision. The court will decide whether to grant the petition. If the petition is granted, the charges against you may be dropped or reduced.

What Is The Purpose Of Romeo And Juliet Laws?

The purpose of the Romeo and Juliet Laws is to provide certain protections to young people.

Those who engage in consensual sexual activity with other people who are close in age to them.

They protect young people from getting charged:

  • with a crime that carries a harsh criminal penalty (i.e., sexual assault or statutory rape)
  • for engaging in consensual sex with someone who is close in age

These laws serve to protect young people from being unfairly charged.

They provide an opportunity for young people to learn from their mistakes.

And without facing harsh criminal penalties.

Additionally, these laws recognize that young people often make mistakes.

And that the criminal justice system shouldn’t get used as a tool to punish them for mistakes.

These laws provide fairness to young adults who engage in consensual sexual activity.

Romeo and Juliet laws recognize that the two scenarios shouldn’t get treated the same:

  • two young people who are close in age and engaging in consensual sex
  • an adult who engages in non-consensual sex with a minor

Why Is It Called Romeo And Juliet Law?

Romeo and Juliet laws got named after the famous Shakespearean play.

This tells the story of two star-crossed lovers from feuding families.

The laws are designed to protect young people who have consensual sex.

But who are still technically violating the law.

Romeo and Juliet Laws:

  • recognize that teens, especially those close in age, often engage in consensual sexual activity.
  • provide a measure of protection for young people who engage in a sexual relationship with someone close in age but still technically violate the law.
  • ensure that young people who engage in consensual sexual acts do not have to live with the stigma of being labeled as sex offenders.
  • provide an important reminder that young people should be aware of the risks associated with engaging in sexual activity.

Romeo And Juliet Laws By State

These are the Romeo And Juliet Laws by state.

There are only 33 states that have Romeo And Juliet Laws.

In these states, the “offender” (the older person), gets reduced charges for:

  • statutory rape
  • sexual assault

But, you can still get jail time.

This table of Romeo and Juliet Laws by state shows us:

  • the allowable age gap between two people
  • the jail time you can still face
StateAge DifferenceSeverity of Punishment
Alabama3 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
Alaska3 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
Arizona2 yearsUp to 6 months in jail
Arkansas3 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
California3 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
Colorado4 yearsUp to 6 months in jail
ConnecticutN/AN/A
Connecticut2 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
DelawareN/AN/A
Delaware4 yearsUp to 6 months in jail
Florida4 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
Georgia3 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
HawaiiN/AN/A
Hawaii5 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
IdahoN/AN/A
Idaho3 yearsUp to 6 months in jail
Illinois2 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
Indiana4 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
Iowa4 yearsUp to 6 months in jail
Kansas3 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
Kentucky5 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
Louisiana3 yearsUp to 6 months in jail
MaineN/AN/A
Maine5 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
Maryland4 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
Massachusetts3 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
Michigan4 yearsUp to 6 months in jail
Minnesota2 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
Mississippi3 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
Missouri4 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
MontanaN/AN/A
Montana2 yearsUp to 6 months in jail
Nebraska3 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
Nevada4 yearsUp to 6 months in jail
New HampshireN/AN/A
New Hampshire3 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
New Jersey4 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
New MexicoN/AN/A
New Mexico4 yearsUp to 6 months in jail
New York3 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
North Carolina4 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
North Dakota3 yearsUp to 6 months in jail
Ohio4 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
Oklahoma3 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
Oregon3 yearsUp to 6 months in jail
Pennsylvania4 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
Rhode IslandN/AN/A
Rhode Island5 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
South Carolina4 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
South DakotaN/AN/A
South Dakota4 yearsUp to 6 months in jail
Tennessee4 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
Texas3 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
Utah3 yearsUp to 6 months in jail
VermontN/AN/A
Vermont5 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
Virginia3 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
Washington3 yearsUp to 6 months in jail
West Virginia4 yearsUp to 1 year in jail
Wisconsin3 yearsUp to 6 months in jail
WyomingN/AN/A
Wyoming4 yearsUp to 1 year in jail

If it’s “N/A,” then that state does not have any Romeo And Juliet Laws that protect you.

Age Of Consent Laws

The age of consent is the legal age at which an individual is allowed to engage in sexual activity.

Here are some key points to consider when determining the age of consent:

  1. The age of consent is different in each jurisdiction. (i.e., it is 18 years old in most states, but in some states, it is 16 or 17 years old)
  2. The age of consent applies to both males and females.
  3. Even if two people are of the same age, the age of consent still applies when they are engaging in sexual activity.
  4. The age of consent is the same regardless of the gender of the individuals involved.
  5. In some cases, a person may be able to consent to sexual activity even if they are below the age of consent. This depends on the Romeo and Juliet laws of the jurisdiction.
  6. The age of consent does not reflect maturity or readiness for sexual activity. Instead, it is a way to protect young people from exploitation.
  7. Let’s say an individual gets found to have engaged in sexual activity with a person who is below the age of consent. This could result in criminal charges getting filed against the individual.
  8. There are cases where the age of consent is the same for both parties. And engaging in sexual activity with someone below the age of consent can still be illegal. It depends on the laws of your jurisdiction.

Defenses Against Romeo And Juliet Law Charges

Let’s say you are facing charges involving a Romeo and Juliet law.

It’s important to know that there are defenses available.

These laws protect young people close in age from getting charged with certain sex crimes.

These laws make sure that young people who have consensual sex are not labeled as criminals.

Common defenses against criminal charges here are:

  • the two people involved were both of legal age
  • the couple was not actually engaging in sexual activity or sexual intercourse
  • the couple was actually married
  • there was no criminal intent

The Romeo and Juliet laws vary by state.

They only apply to consensual relationships between minors who are close in age.

Usually, this is when the minors are within three years of each other.

The relationship must not have involved:

  • force or coercion
  • any type of intercourse
  • any other criminal charges

Prosecutors can prove the relationship got forced or coerced by presenting evidence of:

  • of threats
  • intimidation
  • manipulation
  • other forms of coercion

They may also present evidence of:

  • physical force or violence
  • testimonies from witnesses that could show the relationship was not consensual

Criminal defense attorneys need to prove there was not any sexual activity.

This could include:

  • testimonies from the individuals involved
  • evidence of communication between the individuals
  • any other corroborating evidence

Communication evidence could include:

  • emails
  • text messages
  • social media messages
  • letters

Corroborating evidence could include:

  • witness testimony
  • recordings
  • photographs

Let’s look at some examples of force or coercion.

For threats, examples are threatening to:

  • hurt someone
  • spread rumors or secrets about someone
  • hurt or damage someone’s property

For intimidation, examples are:

  • physically looming over someone in a threatening manner
  • verbally belittling someone to make them feel inferior
  • making threatening gestures or facial expressions

For manipulation, examples are:

  • telling someone that they are not good enough unless they comply
  • pleading with someone to do something they don’t want to do
  • taking advantage of someone’s emotional vulnerabilities

For coercion, examples are:

  • giving someone an ultimatum that they comply or face negative consequences
  • using financial leverage to get someone to do something they don’t want to do
  • offering rewards or incentives in exchange for compliance with a request

Criminal Charges For Romeo And Juliet Laws

The criminal charges that Romeo And Juliet Laws can protect you from are:

  • statutory rape charges
  • sex crimes
  • sexual assault
  • sexual exploitation
  • contributing to the delinquency of a minor
  • lewd and lascivious conduct
  • indecency with a child

With any of these, you could be facing:

  • first degree felonies
  • second-degree felonies
  • third-degree felonies

It depends on what state you live in.

Fill out the form on this page to chat with our law office.

We know how to apply the penal code of these laws to protect you.

Keep reading to learn more.

Statutory Rape Charges

Statutory rape charges involving minors:

  • is a serious offense (i.e., felony charges)
  • are the most common charge in such a scenario

It refers to any sexual contact between an adult who is at least three years older than the minor.

And a minor who is below the age of consent in your state.

This could be an 18-year-old having sexual intercourse with a 16-year-old, for example.

Statutory rape is usually considered a felony crime.

And the penalties for statutory rape can vary depending on the state.

Remember that it involves sexual activity with a person who is legally unaware to consent.

These laws provide:

  • protection for minors engaging in consensual sexual activity
  • that a defendant who is close in age to the minor will not get prosecuted

But the protections only take effect if both parties:

  • are close in age
  • willingly take part in the activity

In some cases, a defendant may still face criminal charges.

But they would be subject to less harsh penalties.

This is compared to those who commit other types of sexual activity with a minor.

Minors and parents need to understand their local laws.

For statutory rape, penalties can include:

  • one year up to life in prison
  • fines
  • sex offender registration

Sex Crimes

Sex crimes with minors:

  • are among the most serious crimes
  • carry the harshest penalties

The age of consent is a determining factor for sexual misconduct between adults and minors.

The Romeo & Juliet laws provide an affirmative defense to prosecution in certain cases.

Let’s say that two people are close in age.

And the minor is not more than a certain number of years younger than the adult.

The adult may not get prosecuted for certain sexual offenses.

But, even in states with Romeo & Juliet laws, any sexual activity with minors is still illegal.

And they can still result in criminal charges.

So, it is important to be aware of the laws in your state.

As the consequences of a sex crime conviction with a minor can be severe.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is any sexual contact or behavior occurring without explicit consent.

This includes any other form of sexual activity to which one has not consented, like:

  • rape
  • attempted rape
  • unwanted sexual touching
  • forced sexual activity

Examples of sexual assault include:

  • any unwanted sexual contact, such as kissing, fondling, or penetration
  • non-consensual digital penetration (a.k.a. “cyber-rape”)
  • sexual coercion, such as threats to harm or take away something of value unless the victim engages in sexual activity
  • sexual contact with a person who is unable to give consent due to age, disability, or incapacitation

The legal consequences of a sexual relationship between two minors can be severe.

A minor can get charged with sexual assault depending on the:

  • ages of the individuals involved
  • nature of the sexual relations (i.e., consensual)

Let’s say an 18-year-old is with a 15-year-old.

Or that a 16-year-old is with a 14-year-old or 13-year-old.

In either case, the older person could get charged with sexual assault.

This could land the person with:

  • jail time
  • fines
  • probation
  • getting listed on the sex offender registry

This is why states have passed Romeo and Juliet Laws.

They protect minors who are close in age from criminal charges.

Besides criminal charges, the “sexual offender” could also:

  • get ordered to pay restitution to the alleged victim
  • face civil lawsuits from the parents of the alleged victim
  • lose employment opportunities
  • lose child custody rights (even later in life)

Sexual Exploitation

Sexual exploitation is any sexual activity that exploits a minor.

Usually, for the sexual gratification of an adult.

This can include things like:

  • child pornography
  • prostitution
  • human trafficking

It is typically a felony crime, and the penalties can vary depending on the circumstances.

Sexual exploitation charges involving minors get taken very seriously.

Sexual exploitation involved taking advantage of a minor from:

  • an adult
  • an older minor

Romeo and Juliet laws protect older minors from sexual exploitation charges.

But they do not provide protection if there is evidence of coercion or force.

Depending on the severity of the offense, someone could face:

  • decades in prison
  • getting barred from certain areas and activities

Getting barred means you’re not allowed to do things like:

  • working with children
  • volunteering in the community

Contributing To The Delinquency Of A Minor

Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is a criminal charge.

It applies to older minors or adults.

You’ll get charged if you engage in activities with a minor that get considered:

  • illegal
  • inappropriate

You could face:

  • misdemeanor charges
  • felony charges
  • jail time
  • probation
  • fines

The charges can get used to enhance other criminal charges such as:

  • sexual assault
  • child endangerment

Lewd and Lascivious Conduct

Lewd and lascivious conduct describes sexual contact between people that is:

  • socially inappropriate
  • offensive

It can include activities such as

  • exposing oneself in public
  • engaging in sexual activities with minors
  • sexual touching
  • engaging in sexual activities with someone unable to consent

Lewd and lascivious conduct with minors carries heavy legal penalties.

Romeo and Juliet laws:

  • have a cut-off for the age gap between two people
  • need the offender to be a certain age

For lewd or lascivious acts, penalties can range from:

  • a misdemeanor charge (up to one year in prison)
  • a felony charge (up to five years in prison)

Indecency With A Child

Indecency with a child is a charge that applies to any sexual contact or communication.

This can include:

  • touching
  • sexual intercourse
  • other activities considered inappropriate by the state

This charge is a serious criminal offense and may result in:

  • jail time
  • fines
  • probation
  • sex registry registration

Romeo and Juliet laws can reduce the charges to a misdemeanor.

Sex Offender Registration

Sex offender registration is a legal rule for those convicted of sex offenses.

These individuals will get ordered to register as sex offenders.

This is a consequence that can have long-lasting repercussions on their lives.

Registration as a sex offender often carries social stigma and restrictions on:

  • employment
  • travel
  • the right to vote
  • what locations you’re allowed be at or around

It is crucial for those accused of a sex offense involving a minor to understand their legal rights.

And the potential consequences of their actions.

Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are facing sex crime charges, fill out the form on this page to talk to us today.

Our criminal defense attorneys have the experience you need to defend your rights.

This way, you don’t:

  • get wrongfully convicted
  • spend decades in jail needlessly
  • never see your family or loved ones again
  • get wrongfully accused by police officers

You deserve a fair trial in the criminal justice system.

Our law firm can provide you with that.

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