Romeo and Juliet Law in Arizona

romeo and juliet laws in arizona

The "Romeo and Juliet Law"serves as a specialized legal safeguard against statutory rape accusations. This law aims to distinguish between coercive sexual encounters and willing relationships between partners who are close in age.


According to various studies, about 7% of teenagers who engage in sexual activity do so with a partner who is 3 or more years older

what is romeo and juliet law

What is the Romeo and Juliet Law?

In Arizona, while the general guideline holds that engaging in sexual activities with minors under 18 is against the law, a specific provision offers some leeway. This age-based exception is applicable when:


  • The older individual is either younger than 19 or still enrolled in high school, and the age difference between them and the minor is not more than 24 months,
  • The younger individual is at least 15 years old,
  • Both parties have consensually engaged in sexual activity.

This legal provision serves to differentiate between exploitative sexual relationships and those that occur between young individuals who are close in age.


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arizonas statutory rape laws

How Does the Romeo and Juliet Law Fit into Arizona's Statutory Rape Laws?

Statutory rape laws aim to protect minors from sexual exploitation.


The Romeo and Juliet laws were enacted to differentiate between exploitative and consensual relationships among teens and young adults. 


Sexual Conduct with Minors Under Arizona Statutory Rape Laws

Under Arizona Revised Statute §13-1405, it is generally illegal to engage in sexual intercourse with a person under 18 years old. Violation of this statute could result in severe penalties, including imprisonment and the requirement to register as a sex offender.


Romeo and Juliet Laws as an Exception

Arizona's Romeo and Juliet law serves as an exception to general statutory rape laws. According to Arizona Revised Statute §13-1407, an older individual can engage in sexual conduct with a minor who is at least 15 years old, under certain conditions.


Specifically, the older individual must be under 19 years old or still in high school and no more than 24 months older than the minor. When these conditions are met, the charge may be downgraded from a felony to a lesser charge, or the accused may avoid prosecution altogether.


 According to the U.S. Department of Justice, less than 5% of all statutory rape cases use Romeo and Juliet laws as a defense.


What is Arizona's Mistake of Age Law, and How Does It Differ from Romeo and Juliet Laws?

When dealing with Arizona criminal law, it's important to understand the specific legal provisions that could impact your life. One such provision is the "mistake of age" law, often confused with Romeo and Juliet laws. However, these are two distinct legal concepts.


Lack of Defense in Sexual Conduct Cases

In Arizona, according to the Arizona Revised Statute §13-1407, a mistake regarding the age of a minor does not serve as a defense in cases involving sexual conduct with that minor. In simple terms, claiming that you believed the minor was of legal age will not protect you from prosecution.


The Distinction from Romeo and Juliet Laws

While Romeo and Juliet laws provide a limited age-based exception for consensual sexual relationships between minors and young adults, the mistake of age law offers no such latitude.


Romeo and Juliet laws may protect young couples from legal repercussions when their age difference is within 24 months and certain conditions are met. On the other hand, the mistake of age law does not consider what the older individual believed about the minor's age; it is a strict liability offense.

frequently asked questions on plea bargains

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What happens if both parties are minors but one turns 18 during the relationship?

    The law would consider one party an adult. However, Arizona's age-based exceptions may apply if the age difference is within 24 months and other conditions are met, according to Arizona Revised Statute §13-1407.

  • Can parents or guardians press charges even if the minor involved does not want to?

    Parents or guardians can initiate legal proceedings even if the minor does not wish to press charges. Prosecutors can also proceed with a case without the minor's consent.

  • Do age-based exceptions apply to same-sex relationships in Arizona?

    Yes, the age-based exceptions outlined in Arizona Revised Statute §13-1407 apply to heterosexual and same-sex relationships.

  • How does Arizona handle sexting between minors close in age?

    Arizona laws on sexting are separate from age-based exceptions for sexual conduct. Sexting can still result in criminal charges, depending on the circumstances.

  • Are there any limitations on the type of sexual conduct that falls under age-based exceptions?

    The age-based exceptions primarily concern sexual conduct, not other forms of interaction. Activities involving force or coercion do not qualify for these exceptions.

  • What evidence is typically considered when applying age-based exceptions in court?

    Evidence can include text messages, social media interactions, and witness testimonies to establish the nature of the relationship and the ages of both parties involved.

  • If someone is charged but then moves out of Arizona, how does that affect the legal process?

    Moving out of state does not nullify charges in Arizona. The individual would likely be extradited back to Arizona to face charges.

  • Can a relationship that started in a state with Romeo and Juliet laws continue legally if the couple moves to Arizona?

    Arizona law would apply once the couple moves to the state. Arizona's age-based exceptions or lack thereof would then be the governing criteria.

  • Do age-based exceptions have any impact on the requirement to register as a sex offender?

    Successful application of age-based exceptions could lead to reduced charges and may affect sex offender registration requirements, depending on the specific circumstances.

  • What are the potential legal consequences if someone falsely claims to meet the age-based exception criteria?

    Providing false information can result in additional criminal charges and would likely negatively impact the individual's defense in the original case.

Kolsrud Law Offices Is On Your Side

At Kolsrud Law Office, we're committed to providing high-quality defense services, upholding our client's rights, and achieving the best possible outcome.


If you are dealing with issues related to Arizona's Romeo and Juliet laws, please don't hesitate to contact us for expert legal assistance. We offer comprehensive guidance rooted in an in-depth understanding of both Arizona-specific and federal regulations.

An award-winning criminal defense attorney Since 2006

Why Choose Josh Kolsrud

With over 100 trials to his name, and years of experience as a state and federal prosecutor, Josh understands the law, the legal process, and your rights. Josh is also committed to representing every client with utmost integrity and dedication



Josh has prosecuted major crimes on the state and federal level, led a successful anti-human sex trafficking operation that saved lives, and argued before countless juries and justices for his clients



Josh is an expert in both Arizona and federal criminal law, and is ready to put that expertise to work for you.



As a prosecutor, Josh saw far too many defendants lose their livelihood due to poor representation. Josh will always give every client his complete attention and effort

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