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" laws. 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.
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 sexual-related crimes such as statutory rape. An Attorney Can Help Even under the new laws, there is still the possibility for young lovers to run afoul of the law. As the penalties can be very severe, if you have been accused of a sex crime, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Criminal Defense Everyone agrees that nothing should be a higher priority than protecting our children, but sometimes, the efforts to protect young people can do more harm than good. Sometimes, the laws that impose penalties on underage sexual activity end up lumping normal teenagers and young adults into the same category as pedophiles and violent sexual predators. The age of consent varies from state to state. Romeo and Juliet laws cover those incidents where two people, not that far apart in age, engage in sexual relations, but one of the people has not reached the age of consent.
In most cases and in most states, when someone over the age of consent engages in sexual relations with someone under the age of consent, the older person can be charged with statutory rape or sexual assault on a child. PRECISELY WHAT DOES THE TEXAS ROMEO AND JULIET LAW DO? Under the Texas version of the Romeo and Juliet law, if a young adult over the age of 17 has consensual sexual relations with someone who is at least 15, and if there is no more than a four-year age difference, Texas will not require the older person to register as a sex offender, even if that person is convicted of sexual assault or statutory rape.
The law also permits many of those who were convicted for sexual assault under the old law to clear their names. If they have not already done so, those who were ordered to register as sex offenders for consensual sex with someone under age 18 can ask the court to review the case. If the court finds that the relationship was consensual and the offender is not a threat to the community, it can release the offender from the sex offender registry.
However, the Texas Romeo and Juliet law is extremely limited and precise. Although it protects the older person in a relationship from any requirement to register as a sex offender, it does not protect the older person from prosecution for sexual assault or statutory rape. The penalties for these crimes can be quite severe, so anyone facing a sex crime charge in this state should obtain the advice and services of an experienced Plano criminal defense attorney.
DOES THE ROMEO AND JULIET LAW APPLY TO ADULTS IN POSITIONS OF AUTHORITY? In Texas and every other state, Romeo and Juliet laws do not protect an older person who has allegedly abused a position of authority such as a teacher or a coach who has had a sexual relationship with a student or young athlete. Additionally, Romeo and Juliet laws do not apply to persons accused of sexual acts with underage persons if those acts involve coercion, violence, or the threat of violence.
Supporters of the Romeo and Juliet laws insist by that removing individuals who pose no threat to the public from sex offender registries, authorities are better able to determine who is dangerous and needs to be monitored. The status of sex offender can also be a considerable barrier to employment and even to housing.
Texas Age of Consent Law
Statutory Rape: The Age of Consent
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