Florida Romeo and Juliet Law and Defense

What to Know About Florida’s Romeo and Juliet Law

When an individual engages in consensual sexual activity with a minor, even if they are a minor themselves, they may be charged with various sex crimes in Florida. Florida’s Romeo and Juliet law was created so that high school aged children would not be labeled as sex offenders or as sexual predators for consensual sexual relationships they engaged in. Being labeled as a sex offender can affect someone for the rest of their life; it can hinder them getting employment, where they live, what activities they can participate in, and how involved they can be in their possible future children’s recreational and school activities.

Florida Romeo and Juliet Law

How Does Florida Define Romeo and Juliet Laws?

Florida’s Romeo and Juliet laws do not make it so that sexual activity between someone 18 or older and a minor is legal. However, what it does do is provide a remedy for the offender to not have to register as a sex offender should they meet the eligibility criteria. According to Florida Law 943.04354 the process for applying Romeo and Juliet law is by filing a motion or petition for removal of the registration requirement, as long as they meet the criteria and it also complies with the Federal Law requirements in the Adam Walsh Act, most importantly Title I of the Act entitled SORNA.

What Elements Must Be Met for This Law to be Applicable?

The criteria that must be met in order for the Romeo and Juliet law to apply are as follows:

  • The victim must be at least 14 years old.
  • The offender can be no more than 4 years older than the victim.
  • The victim MUST have consented to the sexual activity.
  • Offender must have no prior sex related charges, and no other pending sex related charges with similar facts.

The above referenced list of criteria must be met and fully laid out in a motion or petition before the court for removal of the registration requirement. It applies to the following sex related crimes in Florida:

How Does This Law Help My Case?

The sexual activity that happens in these offenses is still considered a crime, Romeo and Juliet law does not take that crime element away if the victim is 15 years of age or younger. This is still the case whether or not both people involved where minors and even if the sexual activity was consensual. This law simply removes the requirement to register as a sex offender.

The law differs for minors over the age of 15. If a minor is between the ages of 16 and 17 and engages in a sexual relationship with a person who is between the ages of 16 and 23 years old, what is known as the age gap law allows for this to be a legally consensual act. However, an offender can never state that they did not know the age of the victim at the time of the act as a defense, but it may be brought up during sentencing as a mitigating factor.

Currently under the Romeo and Juliet Law in Florida offender get one try at filing a motion or petition for removal of the registry requirement. If they are denied the offender must wait until 25 years after the completion of all terms of their sentence before they may file a new motion or petition.

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