Romeo and Juliet Law in Texas
Here in Texas, a Romeo and Juliet law protects those who have sexual intercourse with those under the age of 18, but several conditions need to be met to qualify for that protection. Between the two persons involved in the sexual intercourse, there cannot be more than 3 years of difference in age, neither person can be a registered sexual offender, each partner needs to be at least 14 years old, and both parties need to be consenting.
Know How Romeo And Juliet Laws Apply To You
Besides the rising of the sun and the ebbing of the tides, there is perhaps nothing more constant and recurring throughout the generations as young love. However, for some teenagers in Texas and nationwide, young love can land them a lengthy jail sentence, due to the sex crimes laws on the books.
In an ironic twist, parents across the nation are fighting against the very laws that are designed to protect their children. The parents are arguing that the laws — which lump underage sex among teenagers into the same category as pedophiles and violent sexual offenders — impose punishments on their children that do not fit the crime.
In a particularly poignant example, an 18-year-old high school senior was arrested for having sex with his freshman girlfriend at the same high school. As the age of consent in this particular state is 16, which the girlfriend was not, the 18-year-old pleaded guilty to criminal sexual misconduct and was sentenced to one year in jail plus three years’ probation.
When the two rekindled their relationship, it was a violation of the young man’s probation, which led to the young man being sentenced to five to 15 years in prison. He served six years behind bars and, once released, had to register as a sex offender. He now must wear a GPS device so his daily movements can be monitored.
Romeo And Juliet Laws
Some state legislatures, such as Texas, have responded to the parental demands for change by enacting so-called “Romeo and Juliet” Law. These types of laws exempt some teenagers and young adults engaging in sexual relations with someone under the age of consent from being classified as sex offenders.
Under Texas’ version of the law, if a young adult over the age of 17 has consensual sexual relations with someone under the age of 17, but at least 15 years old, with no more than a four-year age difference between the two, the new law will not require the older party to register as a sex offender if convicted of statutory rape.
The new law also allows those convicted under the old law to clear their names. Those who had to register previously as sex offenders for consensual sexual encounters with a person under the age of 17 can ask the court to review their case. If the court finds that the sexual relationship was consensual and the offender is not a threat to the public, it can exempt the offender from future sex offender registration.
Older People May Still Face Charges
However, the new law has limits on its protections. Although the new law protects the older party in the relationship from having to register as a sex offender, it does not make the older party immune from prosecution based on other sex-related crimes such as statutory rape.
If you face possible criminal charges, get legal help as soon as possible. An attorney can review the evidence against you, advise you of your rights and prepare an effective defense on your behalf.
Why Was The Romeo And Juliet Law Passed?
The overwhelming consensus of the people of Texas believes that adults who engage in sexual activity with people under the age of 17 should be aggressively prosecuted. At the same time, many Texans believe that teens who are close in age to their sexual partners should not have to bear the lifelong stigma of being listed on the sex offender registry. Therefore, the Romeo and Juliet Law was enacted to provide relief for a slightly older person who engages in sexual relations with someone who is very close in age, for example, a 16-year-old who engages in sexual relations with a 15-year-old.
What Is The Age Of Consent In Texas?
Though there are some exceptions, the age of consent is 17 in Texas. That means that an older person can lawfully engage in consensual sex with someone who is 17 years or older. Interestingly, the phrase “age of consent” does not appear in the Texas statutes.
Texas law explicitly forbids any person from engaging in sexual activity with a person under the age of 13. That is the age at which a person is presumed to be unable to provide her or his consent to sexual acts. People charged with engaging in sexual activity with an individual under the age of 13 need strong and effective defense representation.
What About Adults Who Have Authority Over Teens?
Texas juries generally have a very dim view of people in authority who engage in sexual relations with teens entrusted in their care. In particular, teachers, coaches and clergy who exercise authority over a juvenile and who engage in sexual relations with that juvenile may be charged with sex crimes. Even if the person charged is cleared of the charge, lasting damage to the older person’s career and reputation may result.
What If An Adult Believes The Teen Was Of Age?
An adult who mistakenly believes that a young person is over the age of 17 when the young person is actually under the age of 17, can be charged with a sex crime. Such a mistake is not a defense to a charge.