What is the Romeo and Juliet law in Texas? Let’s take a look at a fairly common scenario. A 17-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl are dating. The two are a happy couple despite the fact that the boy is a grade older, which nobody seems to mind. One day the boy turns 18, but the girl won’t turn 17 for another six months. Nothing has fundamentally changed about their situation, the same two people are in a loving and consensual relationship. Only he is now an adult, while she remains a minor, and his parents worry that he could be accused of statutory rape.
This is a situation in which the Texas Romeo and Juliet laws might swoop in to save the day. The law was enacted for special situations like this in which two people in loving relationships may be unfairly prosecuted. However, the Romeo and Juliet law isn’t a get out of jail free card and it only applies under specific circumstances.
Keep reading to learn more about this touchy subject from the expert council at Westfall Sellers.
Texas Romeo and Juliet law
We said that the 18-year-old and his 16-year-old girlfriend might be saved by the Romeo and Juliet law. What are the boundaries? Can a 16 year old date a 20 year old in Texas? No, they cannot. Here’s how it works.
Technically the Romeo and Juliet law in Texas is an “affirmative defense” to a sexual assault charge. According to the Texas “Romeo and Juliet” law (found in Texas Penal Code 22.011 of the Texas Penal Code), anyone between the ages of 14 and 17 can legally engage in consensual sexual acts with someone within three years of their age, so long as the other party is at least 14 years old. Soa 19-year-old could legally have sex with a 16-year-old, so long as the sex was consensual. A 20-year-old, however, could not.
As stated previously, this rule cuts off at age 14 — in Texas, no child under the age of 14 can legally consent to sex, no matter how old their partner is. In other words, while a 14-year-old and a 14-year-old can legally have consensual sex, a 14-year-old and 13-year-old, however, could not.
Texas age of consent laws
The legal age of consent in Texas is 17, meaning that this is the legal age at which it is possible for a person to consent to any sexual activity. It is illegal for an adult over the age of 18 to have sexual contact of any kind with anyone who is 17 or who is under the age of 17, regardless of whether that act is consensual or not. Consent is not taken into account when it comes to statutory rape in Texas, because the laws operate on the understanding that it is impossible for a child to give consent.
What is considered statutory rape?
Unless the case falls under the Texas Romeo and Juliet law, statutory rape — charged as a from of sexual assault in Texas — occurs when someone over the age of 18 engages in sexual acts with someone under the age of 17. These charges do not require proof of force or violence to be considered rape, and again, consent is not considered relevant.
Statutory rape in Texas is charged as a second-degree felony that carries 2–20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
The purpose of the Texas Romeo and Juliet law is to keep young consenting lovers from undue prosecution and consequences though it only applies in very specific circumstances. Sex crimes against minors under the age of consent in Texas are not affected by the Romeo and Juliet law and are subject to incredibly harsh punishment.
Other sex crimes against minors, and their punishments
- Aggravated sexual assault of a child: Non-consensual sexual conduct of any kind with a minor is a first-degree felony punishable by a sentence of 5 years to life in prison.
- Compelling prostitution: Causing a child younger than 18 years old to commit prostitution is a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison.
- Indecency with a child: Engaging in sexual conduct with someone under the age of 17 is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Exposing oneself to, or causing a child younger than 17 to expose themselves, is a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
- Child pornography: Possession or promotion of child pornography is a third-degree felony for first-time offenders.
If you are convicted of one or more of these sex crimes you will most likely be required to register as a sex offender. Texas sex offender registration is visible to anyone, anywhere, and will affect almost every aspect of your life moving forward.
Whether you have been falsely accused of inappropriate touching or need a child pornography lawyer, sex crime accusations can ruin your life if you don’t fight against them. Don’t take a chance with your freedom — call the experienced sex crimes lawyers at Westfall Sellers.
Facing charges for statutory rape? Don’t delay. You need an experienced sex crimes attorney from Westfall Sellers
Now that we have answered the question “what is the Romeo and Juliet law in Texas?”, and have given you some context as to the purpose of the law, you should know how serious accusations for sex crimes can be. If you or a loved one is being accused of statutory rape, or another sex crime in Texas, you need the best criminal defense attorney you can get.
The sex crime attorneys at Westfall Sellers have experience handling sensitive and high-stakes cases and have the knowledge and skill to defend your good name. Start building your case now by calling us at 817-928-4222 or go online to schedule a free consultation today.
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