We’re currently living in the age of the #MeToo movement. Education on sexual assault and consensual sex is prevalent. People are opening up to their experiences with rape — both victims and assailants.
We’re focusing on the victims, but not so much about the ones accused and the laws that also protect them.
For example, age is a major consent factor, which is commonly called statutory rape.
Statutory rape in Texas is strict. The state of Texas believes anyone under the age of 17 isn’t legally able to consent to sexual actions.
But what if a 16-year-old has sex with their significant other who is 18 years or older? There are some exceptions. This is called the Romeo and Juliet Exception.
What Is Statutory Rape?
Before we can describe the Romeo and Juliet Exception, let’s discuss statutory rape.
Statutory rape is when someone has sex with another who’s under the legal consent age. In order to be charged, the one partner has to be of adult age and their partner has to be under 17 years of age.
Statutory rape isn’t defined as “rape” in the classic sense. Even if the minor consents to the sexual actions, the law still sees this sex as “nonconsensual” because, by law, minors are too young to consent to sex.
Why Do We Have Statutory Rape Laws?
After reading the statutory rape definition, you’re probably wondering why the law prosecutes an adult for having sex with a minor, even if the minor consents to the sexual activity.
In some sense, this may not seem fair to the defendant. But there is a good reason why these laws exist — and not-so-good reasons why these laws exist.
Historically, statutory rape laws have a muddy past. These laws were first created to preserve a young woman’s virginity.
Enforcing hefty punishments for having sexual intercourse with virginal, unmarried teenaged girls prevent boys and men from forcing them into sex, helping preserve their virginity for marriage.
Fortunately, we’re above the influence of only reflecting a woman’s worth on her virginity. But we still keep these laws. This has to do more with protecting minors from sexual abuse than anything else.
Today, these laws are enforced to help sexual abuse victims.
1 in 5 girls are victims of sexual abuse and 1 in 20 boys are victims of sexual abuse. Statutory rape laws help convict the assailants. This decreases the burden of providing evidence and proving the assault.
The Romeo and Juliet Exception
There are many exceptions to the rules. One of them is the Romeo and Juliet Exception.
If you have sex with a minor but you’re three years older than your partner, you’re exempted from statutory rape laws. For example, a 15-year-old can have sex with someone who is 18 and the 18-year-old is protected from prosecution.
The reason why we have these laws is simple — even though 15 and 16 are young ages, those of that age are still old enough to understand sex and know if they consent or not.
Not only that, but it’s easy for someone that young to engage in sex with an 18 or 19-year-old — they likely go to school together or the adult recently graduated.
The reason the exemption caps at three years is there should be no reason why an older adult should have sex with someone that young — for example, a 24-year-old and a 15-year-old.
That’s almost a ten year age difference, therefore the 24-year-old will be charged with statutory rape — whether or not the 15-year-old actually consented to the sexual activity.
The name of this exception is derived from the Shakespeare play — even though Romeo was years older than Juliet, Juliet was at the age of consent.
If you’re charged with statutory rape, the most common and successful defense is admitting you didn’t know your partner was below the age of 17.
Some people can easily cover up their age — some people naturally look more mature, have older friends, and participate in drugs and alcohol like an adult would.
Unfortunately, many minors lie about their age. This is becoming more prevalent with online dating and “dirty talk” over social media websites.
The Romeo and Juliet Exception isn’t the only statutory rape exception. Here are a few others defendants should know.
The minimum age to get married without parental consent in Texas is 18 years old, but a 14-year-old can get married if they have consent from their parents.
Marriage excludes an adult married individual from having sex with their minor married partner — however, it does not protect them from marital rape.
The Consequences of Statutory Rape in Texas
Were you charged with statutory rape and are unsure if you can claim any of these exceptions? You should understand the potential consequences.
You could face prison time between 2 and 20 years. This depends on the type of charge you receive. The different charges include:
- Sexual assault
- Aggravated sexual assault
- Indecency with a child
- Continuous sexual abuse
- Prohibited sexual conduct
The prison sentence also depends on the age of your partner. If you’re over the age of 19 and your partner was 15, you could face a minimum of two years. But if your partner was under the age of 14, you face a minimum of five years.
In addition, you’ll have to register as a sex offender.
Find a Powerful Lawyer Who Will Help Prove Your Case
Were you charged with statutory rape in Texas? To ensure you don’t face serious penalties, you need a powerful defense lawyer on your side.
We specialize in charges such as indecency with a child to sexual assault of a child. Contact us today.