Dating is meant to be a fun time during a young couple’s life, but it can have significant repercussions for those involved when a slight age difference is present. Thankfully, Florida is one of the states that have the Romeo and Juliet law. If you’ve been accused of statutory rape, there are several factors that can help you remain off the sex offender registry if those circumstances are present.
At Buda Law, Tampa criminal defense attorney Andrew Buda will evaluate your case and determine if the Romeo and Juliet law protects you. A sex crime is a serious accusation and not one that the state of Florida takes lightly. Our team will fight for your rights and help you avoid becoming a registered sex offender. If you believe your situation falls under the Romeo and Juliet law, call our law office at (813) 352-2217 today to schedule a free consultation.
What is the Age of Consent in Florida?
In Florida, it is illegal for anyone to engage in sexual activities with individuals 17 years or younger. Anyone that is found violating the law could be arrested for statutory rape. Florida recognizes anyone younger than 18 as too young to legally consent to sexual activities. It doesn’t matter if they initiated or consented to the sexual relations.
While labeling this sexual contact as “rape” might sound harsh, it technically falls under statutory rape. The term “statutory” means that it is a crime because there is an age difference between the individuals participating in sexual activity. If both individuals involved were over 18, there would be no crime present. However, when both parties are minors, there are exceptions, which is where the Romeo and Juliet law comes into play.
What is the Romeo and Juliet Law in Florida?
Prior to Florida adopting the Romeo and Juliet law, young teens that participated in consensual sex could face the possibility of one of them having to become a registered sex offender. If the individuals were minors and close in age, it didn’t make sense for the punishment to be so harsh when consent was present between the two teenagers. A sex offender registration could end a young adult’s life before it even begins. For instance, sex offenders can have difficulty finding jobs and have limitations on where they can live.
Florida realized the severity of the punishment for this and passed the Romeo and Juliet law in 2007. The Romeo and Juliet law was designed to protect two teenagers or young adults engaging in consensual sexual relations. If the criteria is met below, an individual can avoid registering as a sexual offender.
Criteria for Florida’s Romeo and Juliet Law
The following criteria must be met in order to be protected by the Romeo and Juliet law:
- The alleged victim is between the ages of 14 and 17
- The offender is no more than four years older than the victim
- The alleged victim consented to the sexual conduct
- The offender does not have any previous sex crimes on their record
For example, if a 16-year-old engages in consensual sex with an 18-year-old, they will likely be protected under the Romeo and Juliet law.
If the above criteria are met, Florida’s Romeo and Juliet law could:
- Prevent the offender from registering as a sex offender
- Lessen fines or length of sentence
- Prevent the prosecution from filing charges
- Have the offender’s record expunged after their sentence has been served
It should be noted that the Romeo and Juliet law does not make sexual relations with a minor legal. The law just prevents the offender accused of statutory rape from having to register as a sex offender.
Penalties for Statutory Rape in Florida
Statutory rape is any sexual activity with someone younger than the legal age of consent. The legal age of consent can vary depending on the state, but in Florida, the legal age of consent is 18 years old. So anyone 17 years or younger cannot legally consent to sexual conduct.
Statutory rape is considered a second-degree felony and is punishable by 15 years in prison. If the accused is a habitual offender, the prison sentence could be 15 to 40 years to life imprisonment. The death penalty might apply if the statutory rape resulted in the victim’s death.
Compared to other rape crimes, statutory rape does not factor in consent because the victim is considered too young to engage in a consensual sexual relationship. Another difference between statutory and other rape crimes is that the victim does not have to press charges. The state is allowed to press charges against the accused sexual predator.
Charged with Statutory Rape? Call a Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney at Buda Law Today
If you’re facing a statutory rape charge in Florida and believe that your case falls under the Romeo and Juliet law, the legal team at Buda Law is here to help. Criminal defense attorney Andrew Buda served as a prosecutor for the state for many years, so he knows what you’re up against. Andrew and his legal team at Buda Law will fight for your rights every step of the way and do whatever they can to help you avoid the sex offender registry. For a free and confidential consultation, call Buda Law today at (813) 352-2217.