''Romeo and Juliet Law'' Provides Some Relief for Young Adults Charged With Sex Offenses in Michigan

February 14, 2014
by The Law Office of Steven L. Schwartz

Verona Romeo and Juliet Balcony

Under Michigan law, under no circumstances is it legal for a child of less than 13 years old to consent to sexual intercourse. Additionally, it is illegal for any minor to have consensual sex with another if their difference in age is 5 or more years. The older of the two involved will be subjected to prosecution under Michigan’s “Criminal Sexual Conduct” statute and may face up to 2 years in prison and a fine of up to $500.

Until recently, that minor was also required to register as a sex offender for the rest of their life. However, back in 2011 the Michigan Legislature rethought that proposition and now has made it so–while the minor may still face criminal prosecution–he or she will no longer be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of their life.

The law has aptly been dubbed the “Romeo and Juliet Law” because in Shakespeare’s famous play, the star-crossed lovers were neither of legal age to consent to sexual intercourse. The idea behind passing the law is that, unlike other kinds of sex offenses, like rape or sex offenses involving young children, a minor engaging in consensual sex with another minor should not necessarily be labeled as “sex offender” for the rest of their life.

It is important to keep in mind that the conduct is still illegal, and may still come with significant criminal penalties, such as jail time, fines, or both.

Examples of When The New Law Applies

It can be a little confusing figuring out exactly who the new law applies to, so here are a couple examples to make the situation a little more clear.

Example 1: A 14-year-old and an 18-year-old engage in consensual sexual activity. Because the difference in age is less than 5 years, the older individual–while still subject to criminal prosecution–will not be required to register as a sex offender.

Example 2: A 13-year-old and an 18-year-old engage in consensual sexual activity. Here, the older partner is 5 or more years older than the younger partner. This means that, in addition to the regular criminal penalties attendant to a Criminal Sexual Conduct conviction, he or she will also be required to register as a sex offender.

The Law’s Retroactivity

Fortunately for those who have been forced to register in the past for this type of crime, the law is retroactive, meaning that it affects those who were convicted before the law was passed. However, the registration requirements are not automatically relaxed, and court proceedings must be initiated to do so.

What to Do If You Are Affected by the New Law?

If you have any further questions about the Romeo and Juliet law, or believe that the law affects your case, you should speak to an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney to find out more. It is possible that if you qualify under the new law, you may be able to lift the lifetime-registration requirement. However, remember that the registration requirement will not go away unless you take action. Call (248) 930-5019, or contact the firm online and speak to an experienced attorney today.

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