Romeo and Juliet Law In Texas: What Is It And How Does It Work?

Last Updated on July 29, 2022 by Fair Punishment Team

Texas has passed this legislation, like several other states, to shield minors who are similar in age from sex crime accusations and convictions.

This is when they engage in consensual intercourse, even if both or one of the youths are under the legal consent age which for Texas, this is 17 years old. 

Romeo and Juliet Law In Texas What Is It And How Does It Work

These teenagers are also shielded from being forced to identify as sex offenders by the Romeo and Juliet law.

As a result, considering the nature of Texas’ Romeo and Juliet legislation, what may be called statutory rape from one perspective is instead regarded as legal from the other. 

In this article, we will be going into more detail on Texas Romeo and Juliet Law. We will discover what it is and how it works. 

Romeo And Juliet Law

The mythical young lovers from the well-known William Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet are the inspiration for the law’s name.

You may remember from the play that Romeo was a few years older than Juliet, who was 13 at the time, though the exact age difference between them was not stated.

The underlying message of the law is for minors who have similar ages and engage in consensual sexual activity.

They should be shielded from legal action and social exclusion as if they had committed child sex offenses. Given the circumstances, such penalties are viewed as being overly severe.

While, it is allowed for an older individual to start dating a minor in Texas. Having intercourse with a person between the ages of 14 and 17 is prohibited if the other person is more than three years your senior, even if the sex is consenting.

This law’s violation constitutes statutory rape. Below, we have gone into more detail on how this law protects teenagers. 

How Does This Law Protect Teenagers?

Teenagers in Texas are safeguarded in two ways. They are the following:

Protected From Prosecution

First, under some conditions, the Romeo and Juliet legislation can protect minors from prosecution.

A teen who is suspected of sexual assault after engaging in consensual sexual activity with a person who is roughly their own age is not subject to prosecution.

This only applies if the teen’s age difference from the claimed victim is a maximum of 3 years. Also, at the time of their sexual encounters, the accused person was must be a minimum of 14 years old.

For example, the Romeo and Juliet Act would prohibit a 17-year-old from engaging in consensual sexual activity with a 14 to 16 year-old if their ages are within three years of each other.

Or, an 18 year-old would not be prosecuted for engaging in consenting sexual activity with a 15 or 16-year-old. Similarly, a teenager aged 19 would not be prosecuted for engaging in consenting sexual activity with a teenager aged 16.

The minimum age for consent in Texas is 17. However, the Texas consent age legislation, which establishes the minimum age at which someone must be in order to voluntarily consent to sexual contact, would be superseded in such circumstances by the Romeo and Juliet law. 

An individual, under 17 years old, is not deemed to be sufficiently mature or to have developed the necessary judgement to consent to sexual intercourse in accordance with Texas law.

Unless Romeo and Juliet law specifies an exception, anyone who engages in sexual activity with an underage person, even if it is deemed to be consensual, is seen to have commits statutory rape.

Protected From Having To Register As A Sex Offender

Under Romeo and Juliet law, teenagers may also be exempt from having to register as sex offenders. However, in this case, there are distinct guidelines when it comes to age gaps and ages.

A person who is found guilty of having intercourse with a minor in Texas is NOT needed to register as a sex offender as long as:

The convicted defendant and the claimed victim were separated by fewer than 4 years. In addition to that, the claimed victim must have been at least 15 years old when the sexual activity took place.

When someone has sex with someone younger than the legal consent age (17) and they are more than 3 years older than that of the suspected victim.

Then they are not shielded from prosecution by the exemption from needing to register as a sex offender. 

The Romeo and Juliet law will only protect someone against having to register as a sex offender in this situation, not from prosecution.

Hence, if someone did have sex with someone under the consensual age, they could still face consequences such as fines or even jail time. Yet the law just means you won’t have to register as a sex offender.

However, you will still need to face the consequences of having sex with someone that is considered to be underage. 

Romeo And Juliet Law Can Help With Convicted Sex Crimes

This relatively recent law, which was passed in 2011. Therefore, may also be of assistance to those who were charged with a sex crime earlier before this law can into effect.

Individuals who previously had to register as sex offenders can now request the court to deregister them if they meet the requirements of this new law.

The court weighs the parties’ ages and whether the initial act might be regarded as consenting before allowing deregistration. Then, the registration of a sex offender can be rejected, allowing the offender to deregister.

The sex offender, however, cannot be presumed as a cause of corner when it comes to being back out in the public.

They cannot have been later found guilty of another sex crime. Otherwise, despite the new rule, deregistration for past sex crimes will not be permitted.

Also, the original conviction is unaffected by being permitted to deregister as a sex offender. The perpetrator would continue to receive the same punishment, such as fines, jail time, or probation.

Remember that an individual under 17 will likely have their trail take place in juvenile court whether they are accused with indecency or statutory rape with a minor. There, a court has the power to decide whether a minor must report as a sex offender.

Romeo and Juliet Law In Texas What Is It And How Does It Work

Other Exceptions Under Texas Laws

The 3 year age gap restriction also applies in situations involving indecency with a child. However, this will only apply when the participants are of the opposite sex, according to Texas law.

According to current Texas law, an age difference of three years or less cannot be used as a defense to a charge of indecency with a minor when both parties are all the same sex. A teenager of the opposite sex who is under 3 years older than a minor is protected by the law.

It is difficult to charge a minor when the offense involves the same sex and not the opposing sex. The Texas legislation against misconduct with a child may soon include safeguards for same-sex offenders, according to some state legislators.

What Are The Consequences Of Breaking The Romeo And Juliet Law?

Romeo and Juliet Law is an absolute defense that shields some teenagers from sex offense charges. Therefore, breaching the Romeo and Juliet Law itself cannot be “punished.”

Although, teens may face charges of statutory rape, which is considered in Texas as a second-degree felony. This can be a prison sentence of up to 20 years in prison, if they are unable to apply this law to their defense.

Is Sexting Considered A Crime Under Texas Dating Laws?

In Texas, it is illegal for a minor to have or communicate with another minor sexually explicit photos, whether through “sexting” or another method.

Nevertheless, there are some minors for whom Texas law has exceptions. If the recipient of the sext and the image both feature minors under the age of 18, and the two are dating during that time. Then this is not regarded as criminal activity.

For instance, it would typically not be regarded as a sex offense if a 15-year-old girl received a naked picture from her 17-year-old partner.

However, in Texas, this would be regarded as a sex crime if the 15-year-old girl is sent received a naked picture from her 18-year-old boyfriend or someone else she wasn’t dating.

In Texas, a minor convicted of sexting is normally not forced to register as a sex offender, but may still be charged with a misdemeanor.

Final Thoughts

The Romeo and Juliet Act was created to shield consenting teenagers from a criminal history and jail. Everybody between the ages of 14 and 17 is allowed to engage in sexual activity with a person who is 3 years younger than they are.

Both individuals must be responsible for their sexual behavior and be at least 14 years old.

The Romeo and Juliet Act does not apply in cases where the age gap is greater than three years or when a person of any age has sex with a 13-year-old.

Consult a knowledgeable sex crimes defense attorney right away if a member of your family is accused of statutory rape or indecency with a kid, despite having a gap of less than three years.

We hope this article has given you a clearer idea on the Romeo and Juliet law works.