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Criminal charges

defenses—statutory rape

Most states make it a criminal offense (statutory rape) to have sexual intercourse with a person under the age of consent—which is usually between 16 and 18 years of age. These laws are premised on the belief that a person under the age of consent is not capable of giving informed consent to sexual intercourse—even if the person was a willing participant. Statutory rape may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor offense or as a felony offense—depending on the state’s laws and the ages and circumstances of the sexual activity.

But many states recognize a defense to such a criminal offense if the persons engaged in the sexual activity were close in age—within three years, for example—provided the persons were at least 14 years of age, for example. These laws are sometimes called Romeo-and-Juliet laws, and are usually located in a state’s statutes, in the penal or criminal code.

In Texas, the age of consent is 17 years old, and sexual intercourse with someone under this age is considered statutory rape. Texas law recognizes statutory rape as a serious offense, which can be charged as a felony. However, Texas does have a 'Romeo and Juliet' law, which provides a defense in certain situations where the sexual activity is consensual and the individuals are close in age. Specifically, the law allows for a defense if there is no more than a three-year age difference between the two individuals, and the younger person is at least 14 years old. This defense is designed to prevent the prosecution of consensual sexual relationships between teenagers who are close in age. It's important to note that even with the 'Romeo and Juliet' law, there may be other legal consequences and the applicability of the defense can depend on the specific circumstances of the case. An attorney can provide guidance on how these laws may apply to a particular situation.

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