What Is Florida’s Romeo & Juliet Law?Published: Feb 09, 2022 by Erika Valcarcel
Until 2007, the state of Florida considered any sexual relations between a minor and a legal adult (over 18) to be statutory rape, even if the relationship was consensual. This required the adult involved to register as a sex offender, creating lifelong complications to finding housing, employment, or obtaining parental rights, among other consequences.
However, an exemption was introduced that protects teenagers and young adults from registering as sex offenders if they engage in consensual sex with someone close to their age.
The so-called Romeo & Juliet law only provides protection from the sex offender registry in a few situations.
Age of Consent in Florida
In Florida, the age of consent for sexual relations is 18. The state views anyone under 18 as unable to consent to sexual activity. It is essential to clarify that the Romeo & Juliet law doesn’t make it legal for an 18-year-old to have a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old but is only a provision preventing the 18-year-old from registering as a sex offender.
The Romeo & Juliet law exists to differentiate between teenagers involved in consensual sexual relationships from adult offenders who target children.
Romeo & Juliet Law Criteria
To be protected by the Romeo & Juliet law in Florida, the following criteria must be met:
- The younger party must be between 14 and 17 years old
- The age difference between the two individuals must not exceed four years
- The sexual activity must be consensual
- The alleged offender does not have previous sex crimes on their record
How the Romeo & Juliet Law Affects Your Sex Crime Case
The Romeo & Juliet law is purposefully narrow and only applies to the specific situations outlined above.
Florida is tough on sex crimes, and your defense needs to be strong. Claiming ignorance of the victim’s age will not hold up in court as justification for your actions if you had sex with a minor.
Can the Romeo & Juliet Law Prevent a Sex Crime Conviction?
No. If you are charged with statutory rape, you can still be convicted and face fines and jail time. The Romeo & Juliet law only allows you to petition to prevent registering as a sex offender.
However, your petition to avoid sex offender registration can be denied even if you think you meet the criteria for protection. Some common reasons a judge can deny your petition include:
- Evidence of criminal history, even if the offense wasn’t a sex crime
- Evidence of similar past behavior, even if it didn’t lead to an arrest or conviction
- If you provided drugs or alcohol to the victim
- If you targeted the victim online
Get Help from a Sex Crime Lawyer
If you were arrested for a sex crime and wonder if Florida’s Romeo & Juliet law could help you avoid registering as a sex offender, you need a solid legal advocate. Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A., can answer all your questions about the charges you face and get started on creating a strong defense strategy.