Does Arizona have a Romeo and Juliet Law?

By on

Romeo and Juliet Law Arizona

Statutory rape, like any form of rape or sexual assault, is one of the most severe types of sex crime you can be charged with. Although statutory rape does not always involve allegations of forced or nonconsensual sexual contact, it does include accusations of sexual activity between an adult and a minor. You may require the legal support of an experienced sex crime lawyer at The Law Offices of Hernandez & Hamilton, PC if you hope to avoid the devastating penalties associated with sex crime convictions.

You will work closely with a Tucson criminal defense lawyer at our firm to explore your defense options. One of the most plausible defenses used in statutory rape cases is the Romeo and Juliet law. 

However, this will not always be a viable defense. Read along to learn more about Arizona’s version of a “Romeo and Juliet” law and how it works, the penalties associated with a statutory rape conviction, and other defenses you could use to clear your name of the charges against you.

When Do Statutory Rape Charges Apply in Arizona?

When you hear the term “statutory rape” you might assume that there was some type of forcible assault. However, statutory rape is unlike other types of sex crimes under Arizona criminal law. Although rape itself includes forcible sexual activity or relations, statutory rape does not necessarily need to be forced. When a minor cannot give their informed consent to sexual relations, Arizona law states that these charges may apply.

The minimum age of consent in Arizona is 18 years of age. This means anyone under the age of 18 cannot legally consent to any type of sexual activity according to AZ consent laws. If two 18-year-olds engage in voluntary sexual activity, there is no crime. 

However, if a 23-year-old engages in any type of sexual activity with a 16-year-old, even if the 16-year-old gave their consent, because the 16-year-old is a minor, they are legally incapable of consenting to sexual activity because the law states that they do not have the capacity to agree. 

But what happens if two people close in age to one another engage in consensual sexual relations? The Romeo and Juliet law in Arizona may apply and protect one or both parties from an assault or statutory rape conviction. 

Arizona Statutory Rape Charges

Statutory rape can involve multiple types of criminal sex crimes. It is often considered multiple charges based on the type of sexual activity and the age difference between the two parties. 

Here are some of the sex crimes defendants can face in addition to statutory rape charges:

  • Sexual abuse – Sexual abuse occurs when there is nonconsensual sexual contact with a person 15 years of age or older, or nonconsensual sexual contact with female breasts of a minor 14 years of age or younger. Sexual contact does not necessarily need to include sexual intercourse.
  • Child molestation – Child molestation includes any sexual contact (except for sexual contact with female breast) of a minor 14 years or younger.  In other words, child molestation cannot be committed upon a child who is 15-17 years of age.
  • Sexual conduct with a minor – Sexual conduct with a minor involves oral sex or sexual intercourse between two parties. Generally, there must be some form of penetration of a sex organ for the crime to be committed, however, the crime can be committed by masturbatory contact between an adult and a child.  One of these parties must be younger than 18. The other can be a defendant of any age.

Penalties for a Statutory Rape Conviction Under Arizona Law

Individuals convicted of statutory rape will face severe criminal penalties. The specific circumstances of the case and whether other sex crime charges were filed will have an impact on the severity of the consequences of a conviction.

Generally, if there is any type of forcible violence or the minor is significantly younger than the defendant, the penalties will be more severe. 

These often include court fines, prison time, and restitution to the victim in the case. Anyone convicted of statutory rape could also become a registered sex offender upon their release from jail or prison.

Potential Defenses to a Statutory Rape Charge

Clearing your name of the charges against you is crucial if you hope to avoid the criminal penalties of a conviction. However, statutory rape charges are likely to have collateral consequences even if you are ultimately acquitted or the charges against you are dismissed. 

Some of the most common types of defenses used in statutory rape cases include:

The Romeo & Juliet Laws

The Romeo and Juliet law protects underage couples and minors engaging in consensual sex from facing criminal charges. Here, consensual sex can occur between young adults where their age difference is less than two years or they attend school with one another. 

Therefore, if a 15-year-old minor has consensual sexual intercourse with a 19-year-old, the Romeo and Juliet law will not apply.  But if a 17-year-old minor has consensual sexual intercourse with a 19-year-old, the Romeo and Juliet law would apply, and would protect the 19-year-old from criminal charges or convictions. 

It will also protect defendants having a sexual relationship that are 18 or 19 years old as long as they are still in high school and no more than two years older than the person they are engaging in consensual sexual contact with.

The Marital Exception

Individuals can engage in consensual sex no matter what their age if they are legally married sexual partners. For example, if a 19-year-old is married to a 15-year-old, despite the fact that their age difference is greater than two years since they are married, there is a marital exception. 

However, that does not mean that you cannot face charges for forcible rape when you are married. Spouses have the right to say no to any type of sexual activity at any time for any reason. The marital exception only protects against consensual sexual intercourse.

Romeo and Juliet Law Takeaways 

The Romeo and Juliet law is a viable defense if the requirements are met. It is designed to protect minors who are close in age from facing criminal charges when they engage in consensual sexual activity. 

It does not protect minors from other types of illegal acts, nor does it condone sexual activity between minors. It does not protect adults that engage in sexual activity with minors and is not a viable defense to sex crimes like sexual assault of a minor or statutory rape.

Contact an Experienced Attorney for a Confidential Consultation Today

If you have recently been accused of statutory rape, it is critical that you take steps to clear your name. Not only could these charges result in criminal penalties if you are convicted, but your reputation is also on the line. 

Even if you obtain an acquittal, your reputation could be destroyed by statutory rape allegations. It is essential that you craft a powerful defense strategy if you hope to protect your future. 

An experienced Tucson criminal defense attorney at The Law Offices of Hernandez & Hamilton PC is here to help you figure out what your next steps should be. Complete our confidential contact form or call our law office to schedule your initial defense strategy session today!

  Category: Uncategorized1
  Comments: None