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Understanding the Romeo and Juliet Law

Certain U.S. states have enacted “Romeo and Juliet Laws” in order to protect consenting teenagers who are sexually active from having a criminal record and serving time in jail. In most states, the Romeo and Juliet Law states that anyone between the ages of 14 and 17 can legally participate in a sexual act with another who is within 3 years of their age.
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What You Need to Know About Romeo and Juliet Laws

In the United States, close-in-age exemptions allow a person to have consensual sexual relations with a minor if the other person is not more than a given number of years older, typically less than 4 years. However, these laws vary from state to state. These laws are classified as close-in-age exemption laws, also known as Romeo and Juliet laws.

Romeo and Juliet Laws by State (as of 2022)

State Age of Consent Romeo and Juliet Law
Alabama 16 years 2 years age difference
Alaska 16 years 3 years age difference
Arizona 18 years 2 years age difference
Arkansas 16 years 3 years or more
California 18 years None
Colorado 17 years 4 years difference
Connecticut 16 years 2 years difference
Delaware 18 years None
District of Columbia (D.C.) 16  years None
Florida 18 years Minors older than 16 may engage in consensual sexual intercourse with a partner no older than 23
Georgia 16 years None
Hawaii 16  years 5 years difference
Idaho 18 years None
Illinois 17 years None
Indiana 16 years None
Iowa 16 years 4 years difference
Kansas 16 years None
Kentucky 16 years None
Louisiana 17 years 3 years difference
Maine 16 years 5 years difference
Maryland 16 years 4 years difference
Massachusetts 16 years None
Michigan 16 years None
Minnesota 16 years 2 years difference
Mississippi 16 years 2 years difference
Missouri 17 years None
Montana 16 years None
Nebraska 16 years None
Nevada 16 years None
New Hampshire 16 years None
New Jersey 16 years 4 years difference
New Mexico 16 years 4 years difference
New York 17 years None
North Carolina 16 years 4 years difference
North Dakota 18 years None
Ohio 16  years None
Oklahoma 16 years None
Oregon 18 years 3 years difference
Pennsylvania 16 years 4 years difference
Rhode Island 16 years None
South Carolina 16 years None
South Dakota 16  years 3 years difference
Tennessee 18 years 4 years difference
Texas 17 years 3 years difference
Utah 18 years 10 years difference
Vermont 16 years None
Virginia 18 years None
Washington 16 years 2 years difference
West Virginia 16 years 4 years difference
Wisconsin 18 years None
Wyoming 16 years 4 years difference

What Happens if Two Minors are Dating and One Turns 18?

There are no laws concerning “dating” at any age. However, many states have laws prohibiting sexual acts between persons under the age of consent. In these states, it is illegal to perform sex acts before their 18th birthday, regardless of how old the parties may be.

What is the Youngest an 18-Year-Old Can Date?

Generally speaking, an 18-year-old can date a 16-year-old if the relationship is not sexual. However, if the relationship becomes sexual, then it could be illegal in certain states. Most states consider the age of consent to be either:

  • 18 years of age,
  • 17 years of age, or.
  • 16 years of age.

What is the Dating Age Rule?

The dating age rule, which is not a legally binding law, is used to determine a socially acceptable age difference in partners. The rule goes like this: half your age plus seven (40 = 20 +7 = 27) to define the minimum age of a partner and your age minus seven times two (40 = 33 * 2 = 60) to define the maximum age of a partner.

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