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Sex with Minors: How the Romeo & Juliet Law Works

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In the past, teenagers and young adults could easily be labeled as sex offenders, even when engaging in consensual sex. That’s because those over the age of 17 who had sex with another person who was under 17 were considered to be committing statutory rape. Those who were convicted could face significant jail time in addition to be labeled a sex offender. Texas’ new “Romeo and Juliet” law is designed to level the playing field so that undeserving people do not fall victim to the law.

Overview of “Romeo & Juliet” Law

The new law allows for people who are over 17 to have consensual sexual relations with another who is at least 15 years of age, provided that there is no more than a four year age gap between the two. As a result, a 19-year-old male could have consensual sex with his 16-year-old girlfriend without fear of repercussion.

Offenses before the Law was Passed

This new law also provides benefits to those who were previously convicted under the old one. Those who had been required to register as sex offenders can now petition the court for deregistration. In deciding whether or not to grant deregistration, the courts will consider whether the original act was consensual as well as the age of the parties at the time it occurred. In order to be granted deregistration, an offender must also post no general risk to the public, and not have been subsequently convicted of an additional sex crime.

Children under the age of 15 are still deemed to be unable to consent to sex. As a result, statutory rape charges can still be brought if an actor engages in sexual conduct with a minor who is 14 or younger, regardless of whether the act was “consensual.”

Praise by Parents

This new law has been highly praised by parents who felt that the old law unjustly punished young people, ostracizing them in the same manner as pedophiles. In fact, there has been such widespread support for this law, that a number of other states have enacted similar legislation as well. The Romeo and Juliet law took effect on September 1, 2011, and has been largely successful at preventing teens from unwittingly being labeled as sex offenders.

The Romeo and Juliet law provides a valid affirmative defense to allegations of statutory rape. If you or a friend has been accused of this crime, charges could be dropped if the facts meet the qualifications of this new law. Contact Brett A. Podolsky by calling 713.227.0087.

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