Romeo And Juliet Laws In Texas

Although many states currently have so-called "Romeo and Juliet" laws in place to protect teenagers that are close in age from the consequences of sex crime convictions, there is often much confusion as to how these law are applied when teens actually engage in consensual sexual relations - especially here in Texas.

Essentially, the most common forms of Romeo and Juliet laws provide two types of protection for close in age teens, including protection from prosecution and protection from sex offender registration. Interestingly, Texas law includes both forms of Romeo and Juliet laws.

how romeo and juliet laws protect from prosecution

When it comes to the first type of Romeo and Juliet laws in Texas, those accused of sexual assault in Texas may be shielded from prosecution as long as they are close in age to the alleged victim. For instance, even though it is illegal for a person to have sexual relations with someone under the age of 17 in Texas, the law expressly states that there is a close-in-age affirmative defense to prosecution under this law.

Specifically, this affirmative defense applies if the accused is no more than three years older than the alleged victim at the time of the consensual sexual relations and the alleged victim is at least 14-years-old. So, this defense could be applicable in situations in which the accused is 19-years-old and the alleged victim is 16-years-old.

Interestingly, a similar "three-year age gap" affirmative defense also exists in Texas when a person has been accused of indecency with a child, although this defense only applies when those involved are of the opposite sex. Currently, some Texas lawmakers are attempting change this affirmative defense so that it applies to same-sex circumstances as well, but it remains to be seen what will happen with this particular legislation.

how romeo and juliet laws protect from sex offender registration

It is important to note that if the person accused of having consensual sexual relations with someone under the age of 17 is slightly more than three year older than the alleged victim, he or she will not be protected from prosecution. However, Texas' second form of Romeo and Juliet laws may protect this particular accused from having to registers as a sex offender if ultimately convicted of the sex crime.

For instance, in 2011 Texas lawmakers passed a new law that states that a person convicted of a sex crime will not have to register as a sex offender if he or she meets certain requirements following a conviction for engaging in consensual sexual relations with someone under the age of 17. Specifically, these requirements include the conditions that the accused cannot be more than four years older than the alleged victim and that the alleged victim is at least 15-years-old at the time of the sexual encounter.

However, it cannot be emphasized enough that this law does not protect individuals from prosecution, but only from registration as a sex offender. For instance, even though a 19-year-old may avoid sex offender registration after having sexual relations with a 15-year old, he or she may still be convicted of the underlying sex crime.

Given the complexity of sex crime laws in Texas, this article has barely scratched the surface of Rome and Juliet laws - as such, it should not be taken as legal advice. However, it does illustrate the necessity of contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney if ever accused or charged with a sex crime. A knowledgeable attorney can assist with navigating these confusing laws and help ensure your rights are protected.