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Posted on May 2, 2023 in Sex Crimes

Does Arizona Have Romeo and Juliet Laws?

Many teenagers experiment with sex while in high school. In fact, it is normal for minors to have sex with one another. Unfortunately, sometimes adults attempt to have inappropriate sexual contact with minors. This is problematic because minors are not as mature and are unable to consent in the eyes of the law.

Arizona has strict rape laws that make it illegal for an adult to have sex with a minor, even if it isn’t done with force or violence. However, the law can get confusing when a young adult, aged 18 or 19, has sex with a slightly younger peer. That’s why Arizona has a Romeo and Juliet law that carves out a limited exception to statutory rape.

What Are Romeo and Juliet Laws?

Romeo and Juliet laws are a defense to statutory rape charges. They protect minors and certain young adults from criminal punishment for having consensual sex with a minor.

The spirit of Romeo and Juliet laws is that it’s acceptable for two consenting young people to have sex in a non-predatory manner. Usually, in these relationships, both parties have a similar maturity level. That makes these situations quite different from an older, mature adult taking advantage of an immature minor. The law recognizes this difference.

Arizona’s Romeo and Juliet Law

Under Arizona law, two consenting minors can have sex as long as there are no more than two years in age difference and the minor is 15 or older. Furthermore, an 18 or 19-year-old can have sex with a minor who is no more than two years younger.

For example, a 19-year-old can have consensual sex with a 17-year-old, but not a 15-year-old. Similarly, a 17-year-old can have sex with a 15-year-old, but not a 14-year-old.

Statutory Rape in Arizona

Statutory rape makes it illegal for an adult to have sex with someone that they know is under 18 years old. This is a serious crime taken very seriously in Arizona. The purpose of statutory rape laws is to protect minors who cannot consent to sexual intercourse because of their immaturity.

Proving Statutory Rape

To prove statutory rape, the prosecution must show that the defendant:

  • Intentionally and knowingly had sexual intercourse (or oral sex) with a minor
  • The defendant knew or reasonably should have known that the minor was under 18

These elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. If the defendant didn’t know that the minor was under 18, the prosecution may offer evidence. Evidence can include the minor’s childlike appearance or statements to show that the defendant should have known. It is not a defense to turn a blind eye to someone’s young age.

Punishment for Statutory Rape in Arizona

If the minor is under the age of 15, statutory rape is a class 2 felony and carries 13–27 years in prison for first-time offenders. If the child is under 12, the punishment is up to life in prison.

If the minor is over the age of 15, statutory rape is a class 6 felony punishable by 6 months to 2 years in prison. However, if the defendant was in a position of trust (like a parent or guardian), it is charged as a class 2 felony punishable by 4–12.5 years in prison.

If you are convicted of statutory rape, you are also required to register as a sex offender in the state of Arizona. If you don’t, you can be charged with the crime of failure to register. Being on the registry can significantly impact your life, including where you can live and your job prospects.

Contact a Phoenix Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help Fighting a Statutory Rape Charge

If you were charged with statutory rape or a related sex crime, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer in Arizona to get the best defense possible. An experienced attorney will protect your legal rights and devise a defense tailored to the facts of your situation.

For more information, contact the sex crime attorney Craig Orent. Give us a call at (480) 656-7301 or visit our law office at 11811 N Tatum Blvd UNIT 3031, Phoenix, AZ 85028. We offer a free case evaluation, so get the help you deserve today.

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