Romeo and Juliet laws pertain to situations where two minors become sexually intimate. It is not uncommon for minors to become sexually active if they are in their teenage years. However, you may want to think about at what point is your child at risk of breaking the law because of an age gap with their boyfriend or girlfriend. If your child was arrested for violating Pennsylvania’s sexual consent laws, you should consult with an experienced Philadelphia rape defense lawyer today. Criminal lawyer Lloyd Long understands how frightening it is to be arrested for a sexual offense and he is here for you and your family in your time of need. The Law Offices of Lloyd Long explain the intricacies of Pennsylvania’s Rome and Juliet laws.
How Do Romeo and Juliet Laws Work?
Romeo and Juliet is the tragedy written by William Shakespeare where the relationship between two young lovers ends dreadfully. In Pennsylvania, Romeo and Juliet laws are an exception to the criminal offense of statutory sexual assault, also known as statutory rape in other states.
To understand the exception to statutory sexual assault, you should first understand the offense. Statutory sexual assault occurs when a person has sexual intercourse with another person that is under the age of 16 under the following circumstances:
- The defendant is at least four years older than the victim but not more than eight years older than the victim, or
- The defendant is eight years older than the victim but less than 11 years older than the victim, or
- The victim is under the age of 16, and the defendant is at least 11 years older than the victim
These laws pertain to situations where the offender is not married to the victim.
Romeo and Juliet laws are exceptions to the statutory sexual assault law because they revolve around relationships with two people who are still teenagers. The exception is designed to protect an intimate relationship between a minor who is 13 or older and a defendant who is less than four years older than the minor. For example, if a first-year student in high school engages in a sexual relationship with a junior at the school, they typically would be a two- or three-year age gap between the two.
It is important to note that if a minor is under the age of 13 when they engage in sexual activities with another person who is older, that individual will be charged with statutory sexual assault regardless of their age. For example, if one minor was 14 years of age and engaged in a sexual act with a 12-year-old minor, this violates the statute.
Also, Pennsylvania recognizes the defense of “mistake of age” under certain circumstances. The mistake of age defense is when a defendant claims they were not aware of their sexual partner’s age and therefore they cannot be guilty of an offense based on the victim’s age.
To learn more about the Romeo and Juliet exemption, you should speak with an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney.
What are the Penalties for Statutory Sexual Assault?
The penalties for statutory sexual assault will vary depending on the circumstances of each case. Statutory sexual assault can be categorized into two different categories of felonies: second degree felonies and first degree felonies. Second degree felonies and first degree felonies are the most serious type of felonies just behind murder of the first degree and murder of the second degree.
As mentioned, if a defendant is four years older than a victim younger than 16, but still less than eight years older than the victim, they can be charged with a second degree felony. Additionally, if the defendant were eight years older than a victim who was under the age of 16, but less than 11 years older than the victim, this would also be a second degree felony. In Utah, a second degree felony is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $25,000 in criminal fines.
If the defendant committed a sexual act with a minor under the age of 16 while they were at least 11 years older than the minor, they could be charged with a first degree felony. The penalty for a first degree felony is 20 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.
Our Felony Defense Attorney is Here to Help You Defend Against a Sexual Assault Crime
If you or a family member was arrested for statutory sexual assault, you should contact an experienced felony defense attorney today. The Law Offices of Lloyd Long is prepared to provide you with the unique and aggressive legal representation that you deserve to fight your sexual offense case. Criminal defense attorney Lloyd Long has extensive experience dealing with a variety of sexual assault cases, and he will utilize this experience to help you pursue a favorable legal outcome. To schedule a free legal consultation to discuss your case, contact the Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171, or contact us online.