Romeo and Juliet Law in Texas [5 Things Most People Don’t Know]

What is the Romeo and Juliet Law in Texas?

The “Romeo and Juliet” law in Texas refers to an affirmative defense that may be raised to avoid a conviction for a close-in-age sexual offense if both parties are willing participants and over the age of 14. The length of the close-in-age affirmative defense applies depends on the offense charged.

What does it mean that the Romeo-Juliet statute is an affirmative defense?

Romeo and Juliet Law in Texas [5 Things Most People Don't Know]An affirmative defense is one that has to be raised in court. Unlike a defense – which could prevent an arrest, charge, and prosecution altogether, an affirmative defense must be raised affirmatively in court. That means even if you are close in age, and even if the Romeo-Juliet statute applies, you can still be arrested and prosecuted. An affirmative defense means that if properly raised your case should be dismissed or you should be acquitted by a jury.

The Romeo and Juliet statute is an affirmative defense that recognizes that, although a person has to be 17 in Texas to be able to give consent to sexual activity, it does not make sense to prosecute minors for a felony when they willingly engage in sexual activity with someone close to their age. Romeo and Juliet statutes range from two to five years in Texas based on the nature of the alleged offense.

In Texas, the Romeo-Juliet law may protect from prosecution young adults or teenagers within three years of age who are both over the age of 14 and willingly engage in sexual conduct. In these cases, a sex crime charge could be reduced or possibly dismissed.

This is an affirmative defense, so a person can be charged with the offense regardless of age and must raise the defense in court.

Why do we have Romeo and Juliet Laws?

The Romeo and Juliet law was enacted to address the problem of prosecution of young people who engage in willing sexual activity with others close in age. The goal of these laws is to provide a legal defense for young people who might otherwise be charged with crimes related to their willing sexual conduct, in order to avoid the harsh consequences that can result from a criminal conviction. The specifics of the law vary from state to state, but generally, it applies to young people who are close in age and who engage in consensual sexual activity with one another. The law is often referred to as the “Romeo and Juliet” law because it is based on the idea that young people should not be punished for acting on their natural romantic and sexual impulses, just as the characters Romeo and Juliet were not punished for their love for one another in the Shakespearean play.

What states have a Romeo and Juliet Law?

StateRomeo and Juliet Statute
New HampshireYes
New JerseyYes
New MexicoYes
New YorkYes
North CarolinaYes
North DakotaYes
Rhode IslandYes
South CarolinaYes
South DakotaYes
West VirginiaYes


Romeo and Juliet Law United States Map


The Romeo and Juliet Law in Texas is based on the Alleged Offense

Most people (even many lawyers) incorrectly assume the Romeo and Juliet law in Texas is always a three-year provision. The Romeo and Juliet law in Texas varies based on the alleged offense.

  1. Sexual assault of a Child3-year Romeo-Juliet provision – See PC 22.011
  2. Indecency with a Child3-year Romeo-Juliet provision – See PC 21.11
  3. Online solicitation3-year Romeo-Juliet provision – See PC 33.021
  4. Sexual Performance by a Child2-year Romeo-Juliet provision – See PC 43.25
  5. Electronic Transmission of Certain Visual Materials2-year Romeo-Juliet provision – See PC 43.261
  6. Continuous Sexual Assault5-year Romeo-Juliet provision- See PC 21.02

The Romeo and Juliet Statute is an Affirmative Defense

Remember, this is an affirmative defense, not a defense. This means that you can raise something in an argument to defend yourself after you have been arrested, but it will not prevent a lawful arrest from happening in the first place. So as you are contemplating choices, remember asserting the Romeo-Juliet statute in Texas is likely only to occur after you have been arrested, someone bonds you out, and you already have a criminal case pending. Similarly, there will be a court document that says you were charged with Indecency with a Minor or Sexual Assault of a Minor until and unless you can get those records expunged. Remember also that, regardless of how the individuals involved in the act may feel about it, anyone can report the sexual relationship to the police. Similarly, if there is a pregnancy, hospital staff will seek information on the child’s father, his age, and are likely to report any possible offense to the police.

Can I Have Sex with Someone Who is __ Years old?

A common question, especially among young adults, is when they can legally have sex. The easy answer is that if both parties are over 17 in Texas, sexual conduct is legal. If both parties are over 18, sexual activity is generally legal under state and federal law. Federal law is generally only implicated if one person crossed state lines to have sex.

What age can you have sex in Texas?

The age a person can give consent to have sex in Texas is 17. Yet the law envisions scenarios where two minors may have a sexual relationship and should not be prosecuted. So an affirmative defense was created that applies in certain situations. While this article talks in detail about the Romeo-Juliet statute, assuming we are trying to answer the question of when is the youngest age you can legally (at least through an affirmative defense) have sex in Texas is 14 with someone who is also a minor. An affirmative defense means you can still be arrested and charged but you can raise the defense in court. Another exemption which isn’t tied to an age is if two people are married.

Romeo and Juliet Law for Sex Offender Registration Requirements in Texas

A little-known rule is you don’t have to register as a sex offender for Indecency with a Child or Sexual Assault of a Child if the court makes an affirmative finding that at the time of the offense, the defendant was not more than 4 years older than the victim, and the victim was at least 15, and the offense is solely based on age. See 42.017 and 62.301 CCP

Both Penal Code 21.11 and Penal Code 22.011 provide slightly different affirmative defenses, but generally allow an affirmative defense for a person who is no more than three years older than the child. This only applies if the younger child is at least 14 years old.

Criminal Law Experts in Romeo and Juliet Law

The Romeo and Juliet Law in Texas is often misunderstood, and important defenses are often overlooked. Contact us immediately if you are charged with a child sex crime in north Texas. We have a proven track record of success.

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About the Author Board Certified Lawyer Benson Varghese

About the Author

Benson Varghese is the managing partner of Varghese Summersett. He is a seasoned attorney, highly esteemed for his comprehensive knowledge and expertise in the field. He has successfully handled thousands of state and federal cases, ranging from misdemeanor driving while intoxicated cases to capital offenses, showcasing his commitment to preserving justice and upholding the rights of his clients. His firm covers criminal defense, personal injury, and family law matters. Benson is also a legal tech entrepreneur. Benson is a go-to authority in the legal community, known for his ability to explain complex legal concepts with clarity and precision. His writings offer a wealth of in-depth legal insights, reflecting his extensive experience and his passion for the law. Not only is Benson an accomplished litigator, but he is also a dedicated advocate for his clients, consistently striving to achieve the best possible outcomes for them. His authorship provides readers with valuable legal advice and an understanding of the complexities of the criminal justice system. CriminalPersonal InjuryFamily Law Contact