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What are Romeo and Juliet Laws?


Age of consent laws exist to protect minors from exploitation and sexual abuse. Many countries have a nationally-recognized age of consent that is followed across the land. In the United States, the age of consent is based on state rules, varying between 16 and 18.

In most cases, having sexual relations with a person below the age of consent counts as statutory rape. However, there are instances where the perpetrator is also below the age of consent, or is only a few years above the alleged victim’s age. In certain jurisdictions, such instances fall under the purview of Romeo and Juliet Laws.

Defining Romeo and Juliet Laws

Romeo and Juliet laws protect individuals from being persecuted for statutory rape if the age difference is minimal or if both parties are minors. In any other situation, the older party would face rape charges even if the younger party consented to the act. Romeo and Juliet laws ensure that the parties involved do not face sex crime charges as long as they are within the same age range.

Do note that such laws are only in place to prevent the parties involved from being prosecuted for statutory rape. It does not condone and legalize sex between minors, and is only in place to prevent the parties involved from registering as sex offenders. They are still at risk of facing sexual crime charges in any other context, depending on the jurisdiction.

Exceptions to the Rules

Of course, these kinds of laws are not enacted without safeties in place. These exceptions prevent loopholes that can prevent a truly guilty party from being punished. Such exceptions include the following:

  • The perpetrator is in a position of authority above the perceived victim, such as in a school or sports setting
  • There was physical force involved despite prior consent
  • Certain state laws meant to prevent technicalities caused by Romeo and Juliet laws are in place

In the end, both sides of these laws are in place to ensure that the parties involved receive a fair trial.

Why Nevada Has No Such Laws

The State of Nevada strongly condemns any form of sexual crime, especially against minors. It is also pursues strong convictions against statutory rape, especially against repeat offenders. Nonetheless, the state does not have any Romeo and Juliet laws in place for minors.

The simple reason is that Nevada does not recognize sex between minors as a crime. As stated in the Revised Statutes, statutory rape comes into effect only if the perpetrator is above the age of consent. Of course, other laws will still apply depending on the circumstances, with the state applying the full force of the law when possible.

Romeo and Juliet laws are meant to protect minors from discriminatory persecution in relation to sex crimes. Nonetheless, they aren’t a flawless system, and are still filled with exploitable loopholes.

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