What is the Romeo and Juliet Defense in Arizona Sex Crimes?
Statutory rape accusations can have a profoundly negative effect on one’s life. This is especially true for individuals who face such charges early on. Depending on the circumstances, a lawyer may opt for the Romeo and Juliet defense.
What is the Romeo and Juliet Defense?
In Arizona, the age of sexual consent is 18. This means that an individual under that age does not have the capacity to give consent for sexual activity. Unless legally married, a person who is 17 or younger cannot engage in sexual activity with a partner on their own free will.
Any sexual behavior that individuals under the age of 18 engage in is illegal in Arizona. The charge will be known as statutory rape in most of the US. The specific name in Arizona is sexual misconduct with a minor and the consequence will be a felony charge.
The Romeo and Juliet defense scenario is commonly utilized in such situations, as far as a few conditions are met.
According to Arizona Revised Statutes 13-1407, a small age difference may prevent individuals from getting criminal charges after engaging in sexual activity with a minor. For the exception to apply, mutually consenting minor partners should have an age difference of 24 months or less. In addition, neither of the parties involved should be younger than 14 or older than 19.
To sum it up, the Romeo and Juliet defense strategy applies to minors who have a small age difference between them and who engage in consensual sexual activity (for example, a high school girlfriend and boyfriend). Whenever the defense strategy is successful, there will be no criminal charge.
Whenever the age difference exceeds 24 months, the Romeo and Juliet defense will be inapplicable. In fact, this scenario makes it likely for both parties to face criminal charges.
Other Possible Defense Scenarios
The defense strategy known colloquially as the Romeo and Juliet exception isn’t the only one that can be used whenever a person is facing statutory rape charges. While it is a solid one, it applies to very specific circumstances.
The mistaken identity defense could also be employed by a lawyer.
In that case, the attorney argues that the defendant did not know the age of the person that they were engaging in sexual activity with. The victim could have told the perpetrator a certain age and they did not have any chance to verify.
For this defense to hold, the defendant should have made a reasonable attempt to verify the age of the victim. Obviously, the mistaken identity defense is much more challenging to utilize properly than the Romeo and Juliet exception.
Penalties for Statutory Rape
If none of the defense strategies work, a person will face the consequences of the statutory rape charges. In Arizona, all sexual crimes involving a minor lead to felony charges.
A person found guilty of sexual conduct with a minor will face Class 6 felony charges. The amount of time spent in prison will depend on the age of the victim. If the victim is under the age of 15, the defendant will face five years in prison. If the minor is 12 or younger and the perpetrator is 18 and tried as an adult, they will face a sentence of up to 35 years in prison.
Luring a minor for sexual exploitation is a Class 3 felony that will lead to a 3.5-year prison sentence. Most other statutory rape charges will lead to Class 2 felony charges. These include molestation of a child under 15, aggravated luring of a minor, commercial sexual exploitation of a minor, continuous sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of a minor. Experienced criminal defense lawyers should be contacted to build a strong defense.