Romeo and Juliet Law in Ohio – When Does it Apply?
Romeo and Juliet Laws is a compassionate form of legislation that provides protection for adolescents who are involved in consensual sexual relationships. These laws often protect both partners from being unfairly punished due to the difference in their ages. For example, Ohio’s Romeo and Juliet Law protects those over 18 when they have consensual sex with someone who is at least 16 years old, provided the perpetrator is no more than four years older than the victim. Furthermore, it protects those younger than 18 who are involved with someone at least 13 years old.
This law recognizes that while young adults may have a diminished capacity for making informed decisions, they should not be subject to the same legal consequences as adults who are much older. It also seeks to balance the power imbalances between an authority figure and an adolescent. In this way, Romeo and Juliet Laws ensure that adolescents are protected from any potential coercion or exploitation, while still allowing them to grow and experience healthy relationships on their own terms.
What is Child Molestation?
- Convincing another person to engage in sexual conduct by force or threat of force
- Coercing another person to engage in sexual conduct by any means that would prevent resistance
- Impairing someone’s resistance by giving them an intoxicant in order to engage in sexual conduct.
Those found guilty of perpetrating these crimes are subject to potentially life-changing consequences.
Under Ohio law, molestation can occur in several different ways, and as a result, there are several different sex crimes that have been defined in our legal codes. If you have been arrested and charged with a sex crime and the victim was a minor (age 17 or younger) you should not hesitate to speak with an attorney to learn more about what to expect and start building a case to fight back.
Lack of awareness of age is not a legally-accepted defense, so it is important that you begin working with an experienced child molestation defense attorney as soon as possible.
Ohio Child Molestation Laws
Sexual molestation laws in Ohio define the following four crimes:
- Gross sexual imposition: This refers to any form of sexual contact with an individual who cannot give coherent, legal consent, such as someone who is intoxicated or mentally incapacitated in some way. Legally, minors cannot give informed consent, and therefore sexual contact with anyone under the age of 18 in any way, even if they gave consent, is considered sexual imposition. Ohio considers this a felony of either the third or fourth degree.
- Rape: Forcibly having sex with an individual of any age is considered rape, and a victim aged 17 or below is an aggravating factor that could lead to harsher penalties. Rape charges are a Felony of the first degree.
- Sexual battery: Engaging in sexual contact of any kind where the victim is under the age of 13 is considered sexual battery. In this instance, the charge would be considered statutory, meaning the victim cannot give legal consent, even if they willingly engaged in sexual conduct. This is automatically charged as a felony of the second degree.
- Unlawful sexual conduct with a minor: This law is perhaps better known as statutory rape, and refers to consensual sexual intercourse between an adult perpetrator and a minor who willingly engaged in the intercourse. There are several different ways these charges could be classified, but you could face a misdemeanor of the first degree all the way up to a felony of the second degree depending on the circumstances of your charges.
What is Rape?
Rape charges can include any of the following elements:
- Sexual conduct with someone who is under the age of consent
- Sexual conduct with someone who is unable to consent
- Using intoxicants or drugs to prevent someone from resisting sexual conduct
- Using force or threats to prevent someone from resisting sexual conduct
What Is The Difference Between Rape & Sexual Battery?
Ohio law splits forced or coerced sexual acts into two categories: rape and sexual battery. Both of these crimes are punished severely under state law, though they involve different ranges of sexual contact and levels of force or intimidation. Rape is defined as penetrative sexual contact with a subject who is physically or mentally unable to provide consent. This is typically accomplished through the use of force or the threat of force. Rape is generally charged as a first-degree felony.
Sexual battery, while similar, involves sexual contact with another person that meets at least one of the following elements:
- Knowingly coercing an alleged victim to submit to sexual conduct
- Knowing the alleged victim was substantially impaired
- Knowing the alleged victim was unaware the act was being committed
- Knowing the alleged victim is a minor
- The offender is the alleged victim’s parent, guardian, teacher, coach, or other authority figure
There are a total of 13 different variations of sexual battery under Ohio law, each with its own associated punishments. Sexual battery is typically charged as a third-degree felony.
What is Ohio’s “Romeo & Juliet” Law?
Ohio does have a valid defense to certain sex crimes against minors, known as a “Romeo and Juliet” exception. This exception is designed to protect teenagers who engage in willful sexual conduct with others close to their own age.
(B) Whoever violates this section is guilty of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.
(2) Except as otherwise provided in division (B)(4) of this section, if the offender is less than four years older than the other person, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor is a misdemeanor of the first degree. – Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2907.04
In Ohio, this law protects teenagers who are at least 13 years old but younger than 18. The law also protects those who are over 18 when they have consensual sex with someone who is at least 16 years old, provided the perpetrator is no more than four years older than the victim
When it comes to sexual conduct, children (those aged 17 and younger) are given special protections by the law. It is illegal to molest or sexually contact a child; these crimes carry immense penalties if convicted.
Because child molestation charges can be so serious, it is vital that you seek the assistance of an experienced and qualified criminal defense attorney.