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What is Arizona’s Romeo and Juliet law?

On Behalf of | Apr 1, 2022 | Sex Crimes | 0 comments

Even if you find Shakespeare’s plays to be somewhat stuffy, you may love to watch the 1996 movie version of Romeo and Juliet. After all, according to reporting from Harper’s Bazaar, the movie made the classic tragedy accessible to millions of Americans.

The story of Romeo and Juliet is also the inspiration for part of Arizona’s statutory rape law. If you are facing charges for having unlawful sexual contact with a minor, it may be advisable to investigate whether the Romeo and Juliet law applies to your situation.

Statutory rape

In the Grand Canyon State, it is unlawful for anyone to have sexual contact with a person who is under the age of 18. This is true regardless of whether the individual is a minor, as someone under 18 simply cannot consent to sexual intercourse.

A close-in-age exemption

Arizona’s Romeo and Juliet law provides an exemption to the state’s statutory rape paradigm. This exemption applies when the offender and the victim are comparatively close in age. For the Romeo and Juliet exemption to be applicable, each of the following must be true:

  • The two parties engage in sexual intercourse
  • The two parties are at least 15 years old but younger than 18
  • The two parties are fewer than two years apart in age

The Romeo and Juliet law also protects 18- and 19-year-olds, provided they are still in high school and they are fewer than 24 months older than their sexual partners. Nevertheless, in all cases, it is unlawful for anyone to have sexual intercourse with a person who is under the age of 15.

Ultimately, if your situation fits within the Romeo and Juliet exemption, you may be able to avoid the harsh consequences that often come with a statutory rape conviction.

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