Updated on August 23, 2022
We all know the story of Romeo and Juliet—two star-crossed lovers who die as a testament to their love for one another. While it is a romantic story that is beautifully told, it has very little to do with the so-called Romeo and Juliet law in Texas.
The Romeo and Juliet law can be a part of your defense strategy if you have been accused of certain sexual offenses. To see if this defense is applicable in your case, contact a Killeen criminal defense attorney.
Age of Consent in Texas
The State of Texas draws a clear line when it comes to sexual consent: anyone who is under the age of 17 is incapable of providing legal consent—regardless of how willing or enthusiastic he or she is.
There is one exception to this law, which is commonly referred to as the Romeo and Juliet Law.
The Romeo and Juliet Law in Texas
If anything can be said about teenagers, it's that they do not follow strict adherence to the rules, especially when it comes to sexual relations. The Romeo and Juliet law was enacted in Texas to protect young adults who engage in consensual sex with others who are below the age of consent when the following also apply:
The younger party is between the ages of 14 and 17 (upon turning 17, he or she can legally consent to sex).
The younger party was a willing participant in the sexual activity.
The younger party is no more than three years younger than the young adult.
Neither party is a registered sex offender.
The state is not responsible for proving that the person who stands accused knew the minor’s actual age, and ignorance of such is not considered a viable defense for charges of statutory rape. However, a Killeen criminal defense attorney will be familiar with the accepted defenses for charges of this nature. Contact a lawyer today to discuss your options.
Exemption from the Texas Sex Offender Registry
In situations where the accused does not meet the above criteria and can be charged with a sex crime, the Romeo and Juliet law may be able to protect a young adult from having to register as a sex offender if the following circumstances are true:
The other party was at least 15 years old; and
There was no more than a 5-year age gap.
An Example Case
A 2019 Texas news piece helps highlight exactly how seriously Texas takes sexual assault charges (as they relate to consent).
The case highlighted on the news program involves an Orange County man of 26 who shares that he is serving a life sentence on the sex offender registry due to an arrest when he was 19.
At the age of 19 (back in 2012), he met a 16-year-old girl—who presented herself as 17 years old—on Facebook. (Read more about cybercrimes and minors) When the young man first began seeing the girl, he would ride his bike over to her mother’s house, where the young couple would hang out together.
When the relationship became sexual, one of the girl’s relatives took the matter to the authorities. The man in question was just a few months too old to be protected by the Romeo and Juliet law that was passed in Texas in 2007.
The Damage Done
The young man in question shares that he is registered under the charge of sexual assault of a child, which has implications that go far beyond the situation involved. The man says that people have grabbed their children away when they identify him in local stores and that, after being laid off, it has been difficult for him to procure employment with a conviction on his record.
Turn to a Dedicated Killeen Criminal Lawyer for the Experienced Legal Counsel You Need
A sexual assault conviction can have devastating consequences. Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is an astute criminal lawyer who understands the serious nature of the charges you face and is well prepared to craft your strongest defense.