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Statutory Rape: The Close-In-Age Exemption

By Hager & Schwartz, P.A.

October 1, 2021

The age of consent sets a clear guideline for when individuals can legally engage in consensual sex. However, many relationships between young adults involve people who are both above and below the age of consent. You may be wondering, are all young couples with an age gap at risk of criminal sex charges?

Florida Age of Consent

The age of consent varies for each state. In Florida, the age of consent is 18. Anyone who is over 18 that has sexual relations with someone under 18 has technically violated the law. This results in a statutory rape charge.

Individuals found guilty of statutory rape face:

  • Up to 15 years in prison
  • Up to $10,000 in fines

For habitual offenders, these penalties increase substantially.

If the age of consent violation occurred between two individuals close in age, however, they are given an exception to the law.

Romeo and Juliet Exception

The close-in-age exception, also called the Romeo and Juliet exception, accounts for consensual sex between people older and younger than 18.

Under this exception, consensual sex is allowed between a minor aged 13-17 and someone no more than four years older than them. For example, a 16-year-old and 19-year-old are covered by the Romeo and Juliet exception.

The Romeo and Juliet exception provides legal protection for individuals and can:

  • Prevent the adult over the age of consent from having to register as a sex offender
  • Reduce the chance of jail time
  • Reduce the cost of potential fines
  • Prevent charges from being filed

It is also important to note that exception only applies in cases of consensual sex. If rape occurred between people within this age range, it will be considered a criminal offense.

Fort Lauderdale Sex Crimes Defense

If you were involved in a consensual relationship with someone younger than you and are now facing criminal sex charges, contact Hager & Schwartz, P.A. today. We may be able to invoke the Romeo and Juliet defense to protect you from severe legal ramifications. Even if you know your innocence, it is important to begin building your defense right away. Call us at (954) 840-8713 to discuss the accusations against you.