Most people have a basic understanding of what statutory rape is: Sexual intercourse with a minor, with or without consent. However, in most states it gets a bit more complicated than that. All states have an age of consent which outlines the minimum age at which a person can legally consent to sexual relations, but according to AgeOfConsent, many states also have close in age exemptions or “Romeo and Juliet Laws.”

Because every state is different, it is a good idea for you to understand what Romeo and Juliet laws are and how they affect statutory rape cases.

What is a close in age exemption?

States designed close in age exemptions to protect minors who are under the age of consent but who engage in consensual relations with a partner close to their own age, from prosecution or needing to register as sex offenders. Sometimes referred to as Romeo and Juliet laws after Shakespeare’s famous lovers, Romeo (17) and Juliet (14), these close in age exemptions vary widely from state to state. Often there is a maximum age difference specified. Other factors may be whether or not both actors were under the age of consent or if one was over the age of consent.

Do all states have close in age exemptions?

Many states, including Washington, do not have any close in age exemptions on the books. For example, in Washington, the age of consent is 16. This means that anyone 15 or younger cannot legally consent to sexual relations. Technically, if both partners are 15 or younger, the State could prosecute them both for statutory rape. These cases are rare, but legally possible.