Teenagers are evolving into adults and start to take on adult behaviors, like sexual activity. For parents, one of the many fears is that their child will be targeted by an adult. However, what if the teenager has entered into a consensual sexual relationship with another teenager? In New Jersey, there are exceptions made for two teenagers involved in a consensual relationship, also known as Romeo and Juliet laws.
Romeo and Juliet laws apply in many states. New Jersey and neighboring Pennsylvania have Romeo and Juliet laws that are remarkably similar. These laws apply to consensual sexual acts between a minor who is at least 13 years old and a defendant who is fewer than four years older.
Relationships Between Teenagers
While Romeo and Juliet laws allow many teenage romances, it is important to know when these laws do not apply.
For children under 13 years old, any sexual contact is a serious offense. Convictions for sexual activity with a child younger than 13 years old can result in significant prison time and large fines. This is a serious crime, regardless of the age of the offender.
Sexual contact between a teenage who is 18 years old and a teenage who is 16 years old or younger in New Jersey is illegal, even if the sex is consensual. The 18-year-old in this case can be charged with statutory rape.
Sexual contact between a minor who is 13 to 15 years old and a defendant who is four years older or more is criminal sexual contact, which is a fourth-degree crime. In New Jersey, this is punishable by up to 18 months in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
What Is Statutory Rape?
Legally, a minor cannot enter into a consensual sexual relationship because they are not considered an adult; this is known as statutory rape. The juvenile status of the victim makes a sexual relationship a crime, and a prosecutor is not required to prove an assault in this case. However, the statutory rape charge may be combined with other charges if it does involve force or sexual assault, which constitutes the charge of forcible rape. Assault and battery and child enticement charges may also be used in statutory rape cases.
Those accused of statutory rape often claim that the minor lied about their age or looked older. However, as in most states, mistaking the age of the victim is not an acceptable defense in New Jersey. If you are facing a statutory rape charge, it is critical to consult a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
South Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyers at Agre & St. John Defend Those Accused of Sex Crimes
If you are being charged with a sex crime, our experienced South Jersey criminal defense lawyers at Agre & St. John can help you build a strong defense. Call us at 856-428-7797 or complete our online form for an initial consultation today. Located in Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Burlington County, Camden County, Gloucester County, and Salem County.