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Are there 'Romeo and Juliet' laws in Virginia?

The age at which a person in Virginia can legally consent to sexual intercourse is 18. However, it is not unusual for teenagers to engage in consensual sexual intercourse with one another, especially if they are romantically involved. While Virginia statutes do not use the phrase statutory rape, the law in Virginia does make some allowances for individuals 15 through 17. This is known as a "close-in-age" exemption, or "Romeo and Juliet laws."

Under Virginia law, teenagers ages 15, 16 and 17 are lawfully allowed to engage in sexual congress together. However, once one party reaches age 18 but the other party has not, the teens are bound to the age of consent laws. This means that they could be subjected to prosecution if caught.

While Virginia's "close-in-age" laws recognize that teenagers will experiment together sexually or be in a romantic relationship with one another, it does not provide allowances for those age 18 or up who previously were able to have a continuing sexual relationship with their partner that started when the parties were between the ages of 15 to 17. This could be difficult for these teens who are in a romantic relationship with one another, for a while were able to legally engage in sexual congress, but suddenly once one of them turned 18 are no longer able to do so lawfully, even if they are still a couple.

If a person finds themselves in a situation like this, and they are facing prosecution for continuing what was once a lawful sexual relationship, they will want to make sure they understand how the law applies to the facts of their specific case. By doing so they can have the information needed to formulate a solid criminal defense strategy.

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Sevila, Saunders, Huddleston & White
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Leesburg, VA 20176

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