What Is the Romeo and Juliet law in Pennsylvania?

by | Mar 14, 2022


Pennsylvania is one of several states that enact “Romeo and Juliet Laws,” which provide close-in-age exemptions. The rules were designed to protect minor-aged teenagers from facing rape convictions when having a consensual sexual relationship with one another. However, the de-facto age of consent is still 18, meaning adults cannot have sex with a minor regardless of their age difference.

There are no statutes specifically called “Pennsylvania’s Romeo and Juliet Laws.” Instead, some criminal offenses incorporate age difference exemptions. For example, the following statutes include Romeo and Juliet laws:

  • Statutory sexual assault, 18 Pa.C.S. § 3122.1
  • Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, 18 Pa.C.S. § 3123
  • Aggravated indecent assault, 18 Pa.C.S. § 3125
  • Indecent assault, 18 Pa.C.S. § 3126

In This Article

A Philadelphia sex crimes lawyer discusses why the Commonwealth recognizes Romeo and Juliet laws, how the age of consent laws work in Pennsylvania, and potential penalties on the line if you cannot use a Romeo and Juliet defense successfully. We conclude by sharing where you can get legal advice if you need personalized information about your PA case.

Why Does Pennsylvania Have Romeo and Juliet Laws?

The Commonwealth recognizes that minors may engage in sexual relationships with each other. As such, lawmakers have passed Romeo and Juliet laws to protect teenagers from criminal liability in certain situations. Nearly half of all states recognize some form of Romeo and Juliet law.

In Pennsylvania, if a teen is at least age 13 and has sex with someone who is less than four years older, Romeo and Juliet laws could protect the older party from culpability. However, if the older party is over age 18, the law will not always apply when the alleged victim is under age 18. For example, 19-year-olds cannot have sex with 15-year-olds just because there is a four-year age difference.

Related Article: How Strong Is an Alibi Defense?

Age of consent is the age by which a person is legally old enough to consent to sexual activity. Pennsylvania’s de-facto age of consent is 18 due to the Commonwealth’s Corruption of Minors statute per 18 Pa.C.S. § 6301. The statutory sexual assault law also states that the age of consent is 16 in cases involving minor-aged defendants.

The concept of two ages of consent is confusing. Here are a few facts to help you understand how these rules work together:

  • Fact 1. Anyone over age 18 may not have sex with someone under age 18 in Pennsylvania NO MATTER WHAT
  • Fact 2. Teenagers are allowed to have sex with each other so as long as they are both at least age 16 and the act is consensual
  • Fact 3. Teenagers aged 13 through 15* cannot legally consent to sex with anyone who is 4 or more years older than they are
  • Fact 4. There are no exceptions to the age of consent when it comes to children aged 12 and under

*Special note: Teenagers between the ages of 13 and 15 are able to consent to a partner who is less than four years older than themselves unless there is a power imbalance. Power imbalances happen often and are generally based on age and experience. If a judge or jury determines that Romeo and Juliet laws apply, the defendant will not face a sex-crime conviction, but they could still be found guilty of corruption of minors.

Important: All cases of sexual contact with a person under the age of 12 will result in rape charges.

Related Article: What Is a Felony in Pennsylvania?

Penalties for Sexual Offenses Involving Minors in Pennsylvania

Sex crime convictions carry severe penalties if a person is found guilty. One or more of these offenses may be prosecuted against those who violate Pennsylvania’s age of consent laws. The severity of these charges is determined by the specifics of each crime committed and the victim’s and perpetrator’s relative ages.

Below, we have outlined the penalties for the sex crimes discussed in this article:

Statutory Sexual Assault Penalties

Statutory sexual assault as a first-degree felony carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $25,000. A second-degree felony carries a maximum penalty of up to ten years in prison and maximum fines of up to $25,000.

Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse Penalties

Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse as a first-degree felony carries a maximum penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment and maximum fines of up to $25,000.

Aggravated Indecent Assault Penalties

Aggravated indecent assault as a first-degree felony carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $25,000. A second-degree felony carries a maximum sentence of ten years and maximum fines of up to $25,000.

Indecent Assault Penalties

Indecent assault as a third-degree felony carries a maximum penalty of up seven years in prison and maximum fines of up to. A first-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to five years in prison, while a second-degree misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

Related Article: How to Defend Pennsylvania Sexual Offense Charges

Were You Wrongfully Charged with a Sex Crime in PA?

If so, you need to get a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney ASAP. The penalties associated with a sex crime can change the entire course of life negatively. NOW is the time to mount a legal fight that pushes back against the prosecutor’s theory, evidence, witnesses, motions, and more.

Learn About Your Options With a Free Case Evaluation

You should not have to go to prison for a sex crime that you did not commit. Get a Free Case Evaluation with a Philadelphia defense lawyer by calling (215) 774-1371 now or message Shuttleworth Law PC directly online. If you cannot meet at our office, we can travel to you or meet by video or phone.

Home » Blog » What Is the Romeo and Juliet law in Pennsylvania?
%d bloggers like this: