Does Pennsylvania Have Romeo and Juliet Laws?
It’s not unusual two young adults or teens to become sexually active, but an adult molesting a child is reprehensible. A distinction between the two situations seems obvious, but in many states across the US, there’s a fine line legally between a mutual decision and abusive actions. In many cases, Romeo and Juliet Laws reduce or eliminate the penalty of statutory offenses. If you or someone you know have been accused of statutory sexual assault or rape, here’s a better understanding of Romeo and Juliet laws in Pennsylvania.
What are Romeo and Juliet Laws?
In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the epic love between two young protagonists has a tragic ending. But in our justice system, Romeo and Juliet laws were created as an exception to a serious criminal offense to help prevent a dreadful outcome for young star crossed lovers in real life.
By definition, Romeo and Juliet laws are provisions to statutory laws that pertain to individuals under the age of consent who engage in sexual intercourse when there is a minor age difference. Each state law has a specific age difference permitted, as well as its own determination of which criminal charges apply to each situation.
In order to understand these provisions, it’s important to understand the ground rules of statutory law. In Pennsylvania, the age of consent, or legal age in which an individual can agree to sexual intercourse, is 16 years old. Anyone under that age is considered a minor, while anyone 18 years of age or older is considered an adult is considered.
Statutory laws were created on the premise that minors are incapable of giving informed consent to sexual activities. Reversely, Romeo and Juliet laws were designed to protect the relationships of minors and adults who are less than four years apart. For example, a high school senior and a high school sophomore who are intimately involved bridge the age of consent but are safeguarded within a 3-year age gap. However, if the minor is under the age of 13, the older individual will be charged with statutory rape regardless of their age. So even a 14 year old who has a sexual relationship with 12 year old is in violation of this law.
What are the Penalties for Statutory Sexual Assault and Rape?
Penalties for Statutory Sexual Assault and Rape will vary based on the specific circumstances, but below is a general guideline of what to expect.
Statutory Rape- Sexual intercourse with a minor under 13 years old is considered a first degree felony and could involve up to a $25,000 fine, 40 years in prison, or both.
Statutory Sexual Assault- Sexual intercourse between an adult and a minor, ages 13-15, when:
- The defendant is between 4 and 10 years older than the victim (second degree felony)
- The defendant is at least 11 years older than the victim (first degree felony)
A first degree conviction can result in up to a $25,000 fine, 20 years of prison, or both.
When it comes to statutory offenses, there’s little distinction between an innocent relationship and a reprehensible crime. If you’re involved in a statutory sexual assault or rape conviction, it’s important you have an experienced sex offense attorney with a full understanding of Romeo and Juliet laws fighting for you. Contact our team of Philadelphia lawyers to schedule a consultation today.