Does California Have Romeo and Juliet Law?

Last Modified: August 11, 2023
April 12, 2023 | Rabin Nabizadeh | Sex Crimes

Romeo and juliet law in CaliforniaWhen it comes to statutory rape, many states have what is known as a Romeo and Juliet Law. These laws offer certain defenses and exceptions to individuals accused of statutory rape, particularly in cases where the individuals involved are close in age.

In California, there is no Romeo and Juliet law. This means that individuals accused of statutory rape in California may not be able to benefit from the same defenses and exceptions as those in other states. However, if you have been accused of statutory rape in California, the experienced California sex crimes lawyers at The Summit Defense are ready to fight for you.

What Is a Romeo and Juliet Law?

Romeo and Juliet’s laws state that having sexual relations with a minor is not always illegal. The goal is to decriminalize adolescent sexual activity. Under such regulations, a person older than 14 may consent to sexual activity, but only with a partner no more than three years older. California lacks a Romeo and Juliet statute.

It is unlawful to engage in sexual activity with a minor in California. Even one more minor. The only exception is for married couples. Without a court decree, a minor cannot legally marry in California. Refer to Family Code 302.

Age of Consent

Age of consentIn the United States, including California, the age of consent is 18. It means that someone over the age of 18 cannot have sex with someone under the age of 18, even if the individual under the age of 18 has verbally consented. The law states that someone under the age of 18 is unable to consent.

Suppose the age gap between the partners is narrow. In that case, the Romeo and Juliet Law in California states that an individual over 18 may have a strong defense against a statutory rape charge. Romeo and Juliet laws exist nationwide and play a significant role in California’s statutory rape laws.

When Does a Romeo and Juliet Law in California Apply?

There are situations where the Romeo and Juliet Law in California can apply. The law prevents an individual from being charged with felony statutory rape if the individual is no more than 3 years older than the alleged victim.

On the other hand, this law does not apply to anyone in a position of authority, as this would be considered an abuse of someone’s authority.

For example, the Romeo and Juliet Law defense would not apply to a teacher in California who is having sex with a student. The circumstances of each case can significantly impact its outcome, so it is essential to schedule a case consultation as quickly as possible.

What Is Statutory Rape or Illegal Sexual Intercourse?

What is statutory rapeSo, what is defined as statutory rape? Statutory rape crimes are serious, and the simplest definition is that statutory rape takes place when someone over the age of 18 has sex with someone under the age of 18, and physical force is not required.

If someone over the age of 18 forces someone under the age of 18 to have sex, the charge can be significantly more severe. On the other hand, several laws could apply to this situation, and each charge carries different penalties.

Learn more about the relationship between California statutory rape laws and consensual sex, and rely on an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you.


Unlawful Sexual Intercourse With a Minor (Cal. Penal Code § 261.5 (2018))

This specific law makes it a crime to have sexual intercourse with anyone under 18. Even if the minor willingly participates, a child cannot consent to sexual intercourse according to the law, so it is still considered statutory rape. Note that someone cannot be convicted of this crime if the person under 18 is the defendant’s spouse.

Unlawful Oral Copulation (Cal. Penal Code § 288A (2018))

This law makes it a crime to engage in oral sex with anyone who is under the age of 18. Oral sex is defined as putting one’s mouth on the genitals or anus of someone else.

Sexual Penetration (Cal. Penal Code § 289 (2018))

This law makes penetrating somebody else with a foreign object forcibly a crime. If an individual forcibly penetrates somebody else with a foreign object against their will, using the threat of violence, duress, or fear, they could be guilty of this crime.

Lewd and Lascivious Acts Upon a Child (Cal. Penal Code § 288 (2018))

This charge is a felony, making it illegal to perform a sexual act on a child. It is broadly considered child molestation, making it a crime for anyone to touch the sexual organs of a child under 14. There are other charges under this law so the exact penalties can vary depending on the nature of the charges.

What Is Considered Statutory Rape in California?

What is considered statutory rapeIn California, statutory rape takes place if someone engages in sexual intercourse with someone under the age of 18. It means that someone 18 could be charged with statutory rape if they engage in sexual intercourse with a 17-year-old who appears to participate in the act willingly.

On the other hand, some nuances could apply, such as the Romeo and Juliet Law. Remember that this exception does not apply to someone in a position of authority over the other person.


What Should You Do if You Are Accused of Statutory Rape?

What should you do if you are accused

If you find yourself accused of statutory rape, there are several essential steps you need to take. They include:



  • It will help if you make sure you do not say anything. Remember that anything you say could be used against you, and you might not know what the prosecution is looking for.
  • You need to avoid reaching out to the alleged victim in the case. It could be mistaken as a sign of guilt, and you do not want to be accused of tampering where they witness.
  • Contact a criminal defense attorney for a free consultation as soon as possible. Our team would be happy to review your case and discuss your options.

The sooner you reach out to a criminal defense attorney, the easier it will be to formulate a strong defense. 


Are There Defenses To Statutory Rape Charges?

Are there defenses to statutory rape chargesAlthough California does not have a Romeo and Juliet Law, a criminal defense attorney can assist you in developing a defense to a statutory rape charge. Some of the potential defenses we might use include the following:



Mistake of Age

We can prove you had a good reason for believing the individual was over 18.

For example, there might be text messages stating that the individual claimed to be 18, or there might even be a false ID showing the individual was 18.


We could also seek to prove that you did not engage in sexual intercourse at all. If there are witnesses who can testify to this possible defense, we may be able to get you acquitted.


If you were married to the individual when you and the other person engaged in sexual intercourse, we may be able to say that you cannot be guilty of statutory rape because you were married. Under the penal code, someone cannot be convicted of statutory rape if they are married to the other person.

Consent Is Not a Defense

One of the most common defenses that criminal defense attorneys use when someone is charged with rape is claiming that the sexual activity was consensual.

In CA, someone under 18 cannot consent to sexual activities, which is not considered a viable defense.

Contact Our Criminal Defense Lawyer at Summit Defense Today for Help

Contact our criminal defense lawyerSummit Defense Attorneys have 120 years of cumulative and exclusive criminal defense experience. Our experience and dedication to protecting our clients’ rights allow us to offer you peace of mind knowing you are in good hands. We don’t take any case lightly and ensure every case deserves full and personal attention.

Call us today to schedule a free case consultation and learn more about how we can protect your rights and defend your interests.

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