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Romeo and Juliet in a play

How Romeo & Juliet Laws Work in Texas

Published: Sep 26, 2022 in Sex Crimes

Statutory rape laws were created to protect adolescents from predators who try to have sexual relationships with them, despite being under the age of consent. However, sometimes they can create challenging situations that result in people being accused of statutory rape despite both parties being consensual in the act and only one year apart.

That is why some states have enacted Romeo and Juliet laws, Texas being one of them. These laws shine a light on the instances where despite one person being under the age of consent, it does not mean that rape or sexual assault happened.

What is Texas’ Romeo & Juliet Law?

In Texas, the age of consent is 17 years old. So, consent laws say that if someone who is 17 or older has sex with someone under the age of consent, it can be considered underage sex with a minor. However, this leaves much room for consenting sexual relationships among teens to turn into illegal acts because one had a birthday and crossed into the adult sphere of law.

That’s why some states, including Texas, created Romeo and Juliet laws. These laws state that a sexual relationship can avoid being considered sex with a minor if the following criteria are met:

  • They are no more than three years older than their sexual partner
  • Their sexual partner was at least 14 years old
  • Their sexual relationship was consensual between both persons
  • They were not already a registered sex offender at the time of the sexual relationship

Why is it Called the Romeo and Juliet Law?

The law is named after the famous play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. In it, two teens fall in love, but the rivalry between their families keeps them from being together. Eventually, the teens kill themselves, thinking it is the only way to be together.

While that is an extreme case, in today’s times, the law is designed to protect a teen’s clean record. High school is when most teens begin to have sexual relationships, including across grades and ages. This law ensures that consenting relationships don’t result in sexual assault arrests.

What’s the Goal of the Law?

If someone is arrested for underage sex, it can result in jail time and being listed as a sex offender for a long time. Both will hinder your ability to find a job, so Romeo and Juliet laws aim to keep teens out of prison and protect them from statutory laws that do not apply to every situation.

What are the Consequences for Violating Romeo and Juliet Laws?

Breaking the law in Texas can result in a statutory rape charge.

How Does Texas Define Statutory Rape?

In Texas, statutory rape means having sex with someone under the age of consent and outside of the parameters of a Romeo and Juliet law.

What Consequences Does Statutory Rape Carry?

Statutory rape is a second-degree felony punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison. Sexual assault of a child younger than 14 is punishable by 5 to 99 years or life imprisonment. Other consequences of being convicted of having sex with a minor include:

  • A permanent criminal record
  • The requirement to register as a sex offender
  • Limitations on where you can live
  • Complications obtaining employment
  • Loss of or inability to get a professional license in the future
  • Removal of a visa, permanent resident status, or deportation
  • Denial of citizenship application
  • Loss of voting rights
  • Prohibited from possessing a firearm
  • Loss of custody or visitation with your children

Frequently Asked Questions about Romeo & Juliet

Can I Date a Minor in Texas?

You cannot date anyone under the age of 14.

Is Sexting Illegal in Texas?

Yes. In Texas, sexting is illegal any time a minor is involved, even if both parties are in a consensual relationship.

What if We Started Dating When I Was a Minor?

If your age difference is only three years, you could be okay.

Can I use the Romeo and Juliet Laws in My Sexual Assault Case?

It’s possible depending on your circumstance, so call an experienced sex crimes lawyer to find out.

The Law Offices of Ned Barnett Can Help

If you have been accused of statutory rape, a skilled rape defense lawyer can help you build a defense that can get your charges reduced or even dropped. Being accused of rape can be extremely stressful, and attorney Ned Barnett understands how these cases disrupt the lives of our clients.

Romeo and Juliet laws were enacted to protect young people who are understood to have a consensual relationship, but where one or both persons may be under that state’s age of consent.

To speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney about your case, contact The Law Offices of Ned Barnett. Contact us today at (713) 222-6767.