Statutory Rape: Romeo and Juliet Laws Aren't Universal

What is the Romeo and Juliet Law?

If you pay attention to the age of consent laws, you've no doubt heard about Romeo and Juliet laws. This is a colloquial term for a legal exemption when two sexual partners are close, but one is considered an adult, and the other is a minor. The idea is that laws meant to protect minors shouldn't harm those who were recently minors themselves and who shouldn't be treated as criminals now because the person they're dating happens to be a year or so younger than they are.

Unfortunately for many teens out there trying to navigate their coming of age, there are a lot of states out there, including California, with no such law on the books.

Let's Take a Closer Look at Romeo and Juliet Law in New York

How does the Romeo and Juliet law work? The best way to understand it is to look at a state that has such a law in effect. The Romeo and Juliet law in New York states that as soon as someone hits the age of 17, they can freely consent to have sex with any other partner of legal age. However, because there is no close-in-age defense in the state, it doesn't matter if your partner is only a few days younger than you, a few months, or a few years; they still cannot legally consent to have sex with you.

The only exception in most states that don't have a Romeo and Juliet law is when a couple is married. A married couple can engage in consensual sexual activities, even if such would generally constitute “statutory rape.”

Which States Have Romeo and Juliet Laws?

The following states have variations of the Romeo & Juliet Law:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Washington

Knowing what states have Romeo and Juliet laws is an important step to preventing misunderstandings that could end in criminal charges.

Is There a Romeo and Juliet Law in CA?

California does not have a Romeo and Juliet law. Therefore, it is illegal to engage in sexual intercourse with a minor–even if the act involves two consenting minors. Although teenagers who are married cannot be charged with statutory rape in California, a court order approving the marriage must exist.

Ignorance of The Law is No Excuse

Just because you did not know that there were no Romeo and Juliet laws in California does not excuse your actions. It's a huge mistake to think that because a law exists somewhere in the country, it happens to be the law where you live. Just because something is legal in California, New Mexico, or Tennessee, that won't help your case if the actions you committed didn't happen in those parts of the country. That's why it's essential to do your research and understand the repercussions of your actions locally and at the state level. Otherwise, you might find that what you thought was perfectly legal is, in fact, not legal at all. 

Start Your Defense Today 

If you or a loved one is involved in a statutory rape case, the most important thing you can do is to get a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer on your side. Since 1999, our team at the Law Office of Nicolai Cocis has helped many adults and minors/juveniles from the Riverside County cities of Temecula, Menifee, Murrieta, Wildomar, Lake Elsinore, Hemet, Perris, and Corona, Winchester. We'll guide you through the process and ensure your rights are protected at every step.

Have you violated California's Romeo and Juliet law? Our sex crime attorney in Murrieta is ready to represent you. Call the Law Office of Nicolai Cocis today at (951) 666-2600 or contact us online to get started. 

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