When most people think of Romeo and Juliet, they think of Shakespeare’s star-crossed young lovers. Their families were bitter enemies, and the young couple had only love on their side. It was apparent these young lovers’ story would end badly, but what about young couples in Texas with a simple one or two-year age difference against them?
Should they face statutory rape charges when engaged in a consensual sexual relationship? Perhaps a relationship stemming from a long-term high school romance?
This is where Texas’s Romeo and Juliet law comes into play.
What is Statutory Rape?
Statutory rape in Texas is any sexual activity between an adult and a child below the age of consent. The age of consent in Texas is seventeen. It does not matter if the seventeen-year-old permits the action or if the adult does not know the child’s age.
The purpose of Texas’s age of consent law is to prevent adults from taking sexual advantage of minors. Texas sees minors as sexually immature and unable to grasp the gravity or consequences of the sexual act.
Therefore, when put into practical application, when one of two sixteen-year-olds in a consensual sexual relationship turns seventeen, and the couple continues having sex, the older of the two is committing statutory rape.
Romeo and Juliet Law an Affirmative Defense to Statutory Rape
The Romeo and Juliet law steps in to give young adults an affirmative defense to the statutory rape law. The law states that “anyone between the ages of fourteen and seventeen can legally give consent with someone within three years of their age, so long as the other party is at least fourteen and gives his or her consent.”
The reasoning behind the Romeo and Juliet law is that teens close in age should not face unfair punishment and prosecution as child sex offenders when they have consensual sexual relations, even if both are under the age of consent.
The Romeo and Juliet law does not exempt teenagers or young adults from statutory rape charges when they have sex with someone outside of their accepted three-year age range. It merely gives them an affirmative defense to their actions when they are in a consensual relationship.
Romeo and Juliet Law and Sex Offender Registration
Sex offender registration is slightly different for teenagers and young adults. Under Texas law, the age difference for exemption from sex offender registration is less than four years older than the alleged victim. The age of the alleged victim must be at least fifteen at the time of the sexual activity.
This means the Romeo and Juliet law does not protect an offender from statutory rape charges, but the offender would not have to register as a sex offender.
The statutory rape law in Texas are strict and can be complex. Penalties for violating this law range from two to twenty years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. If you or your loved one face a statutory rape charge and want to discuss the Romeo and Juliet law or any other defense with an experienced San Antonio sex crimes lawyer, call Hoelscher Gebbia Cepeda, PLLC, now.
At Hoelscher Gebbia Cepeda, PLLC, our attorneys are available to explain your legal rights and preserve your freedom and dignity throughout the criminal law process. We want you to live your best possible life, free of the stigma of a sex crime or sex offender registration. Meet with our criminal defense attorney in San Antonio so we can start your case today.