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Florida's Romeo & Juliet Law

May 08, 2024
Sexual Assault and STD

What Every Parent and Teen Needs to Know

Do you suspect that your teenage child is involved in a romantic relationship with someone significantly older? Are you concerned that this relationship may be turning sexual, and you are unsure about the legal implications? Florida's Romeo and Juliet Law exists to address situations just like these.

Not all young relationships are protected under this law. That is why it is best to educate yourself on this important piece of legislation, especially if you have a teenage child in a serious relationship. Learn more about the intricacies of the Romeo and Juliet Law and how it might affect your case with Mase Seitz Briggs

We understand that this is a sensitive and stressful situation. That’s why we are here to provide you with the information you need to protect your child. 

What is Florida's Romeo and Juliet Law?

Florida's Romeo and Juliet Law provides a legal defense for certain teenagers charged with statutory rape. Statutory rape occurs when someone has sexual contact with a minor who is unable to consent due to their age. The legal age of consent in Florida is 18.

However, the Romeo and Juliet Law recognizes that teenagers sometimes engage in consensual romantic relationships with someone close in age.  This law offers a potential defense to statutory rape charges in such cases.

After all, a rape or sexual crime charge can be extremely difficult to overcome in life, especially as a young adult. In some cases, it might be more prudent to handle any potential concerns directly with your teen rather than involving law enforcement. 

Who Qualifies for Florida's Romeo and Juliet Law?

Many states have similar laws that protect teenagers in consensual romantic relationships where one is over the age of consent and the other is not, but each state’s laws are a little different. In Florida there are three main criteria a relationship must meet to qualify for the Romeo and Juliet Law defense:

  • Age Difference: The younger person involved must be at least 14 years old but younger than 18. The older person cannot be more than four years older than the younger person. For example, a 16-year-old could potentially be protected if involved with a 20-year-old, but not a 21-year-old.
  • Relationship: The relationship must be consensual. There cannot be any evidence of force, coercion, grooming, or manipulation.
  • No Prior Offenses: The older person involved cannot have a history of sex crimes or offenses involving minors.

Can You Fight a Romeo and Juliet Verdict?

Even if the relationship meets the above criteria, the prosecution may still pursue a statutory rape case at their discretion. An experienced attorney can help build a strong defense by demonstrating that the relationship does display signs of manipulation or coercion. Because this is so common in age gap relationships, especially in young teens, it is a common strategy to use. 

This may involve presenting evidence of the age difference between the partners and any signs of emotional, verbal, or physical coercion on the older party’s part. 

How This Law Protects Young Adults

If the Romeo and Juliet Law applies to your case, it can offer significant benefits:

  • Reduced Charges: Statutory rape charges can lead to severe consequences, including jail time and sex offender registration. For an 18 or 19 year-old person who is just barely considered an adult, this can change the entire trajectory of their life. If they are involved in a consensual relationship with a person only a few years younger than them, they might not consider their actions wrong. In some cases, neither does the state of Florida. The Romeo and Juliet Law can potentially lead to dismissal of these charges or a lesser offense with reduced penalties.
  • Protected Reputation: A statutory rape conviction can have a lasting negative impact on a young person's life. The Romeo and Juliet Law can help avoid this by preventing such a conviction.

Important Considerations & Limitations

It's crucial to understand some limitations of the Romeo and Juliet Law:

  • Burden of Proof: The burden of proof lies with the defendant (or their attorney) to demonstrate that the relationship qualifies under the Romeo and Juliet Law. In some cases this is as simple as providing proof of age and the testimony of both parties that the relationship was consensual.
  • Not Guaranteed: Meeting the criteria does not guarantee a successful defense. The judge will ultimately decide whether the law applies based on the presented evidence. This can depend on a wide variety of factors including mental soundness on the younger person’s part, the age of the younger person when the relationship began, and any other relevant facts. 

When to Contact a Sexual Assault Attorney

If you suspect your child is involved in a concerning relationship, it is critical to seek legal counsel from an experienced sexual assault attorney immediately.

The attorneys at Mase Seitz Briggs understand the complexities of Florida's Romeo and Juliet Law. We can provide compassionate and aggressive legal representation to protect your child's rights and future.

Contact Mase Seitz Briggs for a Free Consultation

Navigating the legal aspects of such a situation can be overwhelming. Our team is here to help. Contact Mase Seitz Briggs today for a free consultation to discuss your specific situation and explore your legal options. We'll work tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome for your child.

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Mase Seitz Briggs
2601 South Bayshore Drive
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Miami, FL 33133

Phone: 305-487-8863
Toll Free: 1-844-904-1749
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1200 N Federal Hwy
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Boca Raton, FL 33432

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