The Romeo and Juliet Law gets its name from Shakespeare’s story of teenagers who were deeply in love. Their families, however, forbade them from being together. The separation frustrates them and they decide to end their lives as they see it as the only way they can end up together.
This law prevents coitus between individuals who have a few years’ difference in the age gap from being statutory rape or sexual assault. The age of consent ranges between 16-18 in different jurisdictions. When the age gap is more than that, it is a sexual assault on a child. As a child cannot legally consent to sex, this charge comes with substantial penalties.
This law, however, doesn’t protect an older person accused of being in a sexual relationship that involves imposing their authority on the person they are in the relationship with. This simply means that it does not protect a coach in a sexual relationship with an athlete they are training, or a teacher and his/her student.
Here are 3 things you should know about the Romeo and Juliet law.
01. The Law Can Only Be Invoked Under Specific Conditions
Your attorney can invoke the Age Difference Defense under conditions such as the defendant is a high school student and younger than 19, the age difference between the defendant and the other party is no more than two years and the other party is between 15-17 years old. It can also be invoked if the sex was consensual.
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02. A Case of Mistaken Identity
This line of defense does not hold water in many states. However, it is accepted in court in the state of Arizona. Sex crimes attorney, Belen Guerra of https://www.belenlawfirm.com/blog/sex-crimes/romeo-and-juliet-law-in-arizona/ says that the defense can argue that the other party hid their actual age. The defense will say that their client showed nothing that would have shown they lied about their age.
The defense however will still have to come up with other lines of defense as lying about age is not enough to get the defendant released.
03. Gender and Mental Capacity
The Romeo and Juliet law does not apply to heterosexual teenagers who engage in voluntary sexual activities. Even when the age gap is close, the mental capacity of those involved has to be factored in. When the mental capacity of one person involved is considered to be like that of a child, the Romeo and Juliet law will not apply. It is considered to be non-consensual and is treated as sexual assault or rape.
According to police reports, cases of statutory rape are rare compared to other sexual crimes. Cases, where the Romeo and Juliet law is applicable, are even rarer. It is believed that sexual orientation and gender play a huge role in reporting cases of statutory rape.
Everyone should be aware of the legal age of consent in their state and if the Romeo and Juliet law is applicable. The law is there to only reduce penalties and help lessen the charges. Sex with minors is something that should not be taken lightly.