The Romeo & Juliet Law in Texas: How It Works

If you want to know why the Romeo and Juliet law in Texas is necessary, then familiarize yourself with an all-too-common scenario: A 17-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl are dating. They are a grade apart, but nobody seems to mind; it’s not like the Texas dating laws of 2017 or 2018 are required reading in high school.

One day, the boy turns 18, but the girl won’t be 17 for another 6 months. The boy and girl are OK with the situation, but all of a sudden, their parents are not. Even though the relationship is 100% consensual, one thing leads to another, and the boyfriend finds himself facing the consequences of being accused of statutory rape in Texas.

Or does he? It’s times like these when the Texas Romeo and Juliet law saves the day.

Recognizing that unfair scenarios like this one can ruin lives and grant innocent people a permanent Texas sex offender registration, the Romeo and Juliet law in Texas was put in place to mitigate how young adults are punished for being involved with a minor.

If you want to help clear up the myths and misconceptions that surround this taboo subject, learn more about the Romeo and Juliet law in Texas and the Texas age of consent laws. After all, it could affect your child, niece, nephew, or other loved one someday.

Texas age of consent laws

It’s the question many young men ask at some point: “Is age 17 legal in Texas?” The answer is yes. Unlike many other states, Texas age of consent laws claim that at 17, not 18, a person can legally consent to have sex with any other older adult whom choose, be they 21 or 95.

But what about the boy and the girl in our example? He may be 18, but she is still 16 and technically too young to consent. Is it legal for an 18-year-old to date a 15-year-old or 16-year-old? Or what if you’re 16 and your partner is too? Here’s what the Texas “Romeo and Juliet” law has to say.

The Romeo and Juliet law in Texas: Texas Penal Code 22.021

According to the Texas “Romeo and Juliet” law (found in Texas Penal Code 22.021 of the Texas Penal Code), anyone between the ages of 14 and 17 can legally engage in consensual sexual acts with someone within three years of their age, so long as the other party is at least 14 years old. So if you’re wondering, “Can I date a 16-year-old at 19?” the answer is yesA 19-year-old could legally have sex with a 16-year-old, so long as the sex was consensual. A 20-year-old, however, could not.

As stated previously, this rule cuts off at age 14 — in Texas, no child under the age of 14 can legally consent to sex, no matter how old their partner is. In other words, while a 14-year-old and a 14-year-old can legally have consensual sex, a 14-year-old and 13-year-old could not.

(Note the Romeo and Juliet laws in Texas have some similarities to laws against prostitution in Texas, but are ultimately different).

The Romeo and Juliet law in Texas: When does consensual sex become statutory rape?

The “Romeo and Juliet” law in Texas may exist to prevent unfair sex crime convictions, but if your sexual relationship with a young person doesn’t fit within the law’s intentionally narrow boundaries, you could face some daunting consequences.

If you are at or over the age of 17 and have sex — consensually or not — with anyone under the age of 14, then you have committed statutory rape. If you engage in non-consensual sex, that also qualifies as statutory rape, no matter the age of the other individual.

Falling outside of the Texas “Romeo and Juliet” laws can put you in a bad place. If convicted of statutory rape, you are facing at least a second-degree felony, punishable by 2-20 years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $10,000, and the potential to have your name added to the Texas sex offender registry. These are just some of the reasons to consider hiring a Dallas sexual assault lawyer.

Unfairly charged with statutory rape? Get help from The Wilder Firm!

Disproving statutory rape accusations using the “Romeo and Juliet” law in Texas requires thorough, in-depth legal representation. With experience as both a prosecutor for the state of Texas, and as an aggressive Dallas criminal defense attorney, Doug Wilder and his team at The Wilder Firm have the skills and expertise to craft the best possible defense for your case.

Don’t let accusations haunt you one second longer. Contact The Wilder Firm today to schedule your free consultation.