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Romeo and Juliet Law

Romeo and Juliet laws are statutory provisions that aim to protect a consensual sexual relationship between minors or between a minor and someone near in age from being considered a criminal offense, particularly when one party is below the age of consent, and the other is slightly older. These laws provide for age-gap provisions that decriminalize consensual sex acts between individuals close in age when statutory rape laws would otherwise apply. They are intended to prevent the severe criminal consequences that might otherwise occur for what is deemed to be a non-exploitative relationship.


United States:

In the United States, age of consent laws are determined at the state level, and many states have adopted Romeo and Juliet or “close-in-age” exemptions. The details of these exemptions vary widely from state to state.


The “Romeo and Juliet” law in Florida allows a person to petition the court to remove the requirement to register as a sex offender if they were no older than 23 at the time of a consensual sexual encounter with someone aged 16 or 17.


Texas has a Romeo and Juliet law that provides a defense to prosecution when the two parties are close in age, specifically if the younger party is at least 14 years old and the age difference is no more than three years.


While California does not have a traditional Romeo and Juliet law, it does have laws that provide judges with the discretion to decide whether an adult must register as a sex offender if the minor is at least 14 and the age difference is not more than 10 years.



In Canada, the “close-in-age” exemption, also known as the “Tener’s Clause,” allows for consensual sexual activity between a minor aged 14 or 15 and a partner who is less than five years older. Additionally, the law allows those aged 12 or 13 to consent to sex with someone less than two years older. These provisions reflect the Romeo and Juliet laws’ intent to avoid criminalizing consensual sexual activity between peers.


United Kingdom:

The UK does not have a Romeo and Juliet law per se. The age of consent is 16, and sexual activity with individuals under this age is a criminal offense. There is no close-in-age exemption in UK statutory rape laws. However, applying these laws is often informed by considering the relative ages and the nature of the relationship between the involved individuals.
The concept of Romeo and Juliet laws is adopted in various forms across many jurisdictions within these countries to account for the complexities of teenage sexuality and development. While their application varies, the intent is generally to provide legal protection against prosecution for young individuals in consensual, non-exploitative relationships, while still safeguarding against sexual abuse and exploitation.

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