‘Romeo And Juliet’ Law Changes Statutory Rape Definition

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A new state law set to take effect in September will make it legal for anyone who is at least 15-years-old to have sex with someone up to four years older.

The legislation – called the “Romeo and Juliet” bill – aims to protect young people engaging in consensual sex from winding up on the sex offender registry.

Austin, a 28-year-old who spoke on condition of anonymity, said his life changed drastically after police learned he had had sex with two underage girlfriends during high school.

“I was a senior in high school and I was 18, and they were both sophomores,” he said.

On his attorney’s advice, Austin agreed to 10 years of probation and sex offender status.

“He said, ‘It’s not that big of a deal. It won’t be that hard,’” Austin said.

That turned out to be far from the truth, he said.

“It wasn’t until I started losing jobs at the radio station that it started to sink in just how serious this was,” he said.

Austin said he gained more than 100 pounds and struggled with depression because of the new label he carried.

“It’s hell,” he said. “You are the worst person walking on the earth.”

The new bill, passed by the state House and Senate, though, is giving him hope. The law would make it legal for anyone at least 15 years old to have sex with someone up to four years older.

Governor Rick Perry has vetoed similar legislation before, but this week, he let it pass. The law is now set to take effect in September.

Austin says his lawyer has already drafted a petition for the courts, asking a judge to remove him from the registry.

“I would feel like I was getting my life back,” he said.

There has been little opposition to the bill. Even some advocates for rape victims said they don’t have a problem with it. Some argue the larger the sex offender registry grows, the harder it will be to recognize who poses a real threat to the public.

In Dallas, there were about 2,600 registered sex offenders in city limits five years ago. That number has ballooned to more than 4,500 today.

The department said it has no way of knowing how many offenders could get off the list because of the new law.


One Comment

  1. John says:

    This is a good law that makes a lot of sense. i know some will bemoan that it promotes having sex with younger girls and that is true. The fact is you can’t expect people to be in a high school together and not to have this happen to some extent. Since these people are not fully developed adults at this point in time, it is unfair to condemn their entire life.

    1. Pam says:

      I am a female and I definitely agree with you. This is guy is just a child himself and he had sex with another child.

  2. NiteNurse says:

    I know allot of vindictive parents who want to ruin a kid’s life for having consensual sex with their daughter. They didn’t seem to understand what filing those charges would do to a kid’s life.

  3. George says:

    OK so when is an adult an adult? 18 is an adult according to the law so we are still saying it is OK for an adult to have sex with someone the law says is a child. The whole registry issue is a waste of time to begin with.19 yo will start looking to have sex with 15 yo…How stupid this law is

    1. rd says:

      It’s also stupid for an 18 yr old to be arrested for having consensual sex with a 17 yr old, who is technically a child. This will keep people from having a criminal record for doing something that shouldn’t be considered a crime in the first place. You can’t tell me those 15 and 16 yr olds were not willing. Get your head out of the sand.

  4. fred says:

    For Millions of years, our only NEED has been to survive and procreate. Last few thousand years we have had this ebb and flow of human WANTS to control all aspects of our lives including the first two needs. It is what it is, and NATURE is still in control, so you really need to look at keeping the real pedo creeps in jail for life and dump the registry.

  5. David Eugene Harkins says:

    Having sex while under 18 should be a crime. And should have severe consequences. So now we are telling 15 16 and 17 year olds its ok to have sex in high school. I know that teens are going to have sex anyways. But they should know that if they give in to there urges then they could and should be legally punished.

    While we are at it we might as well go ahead and make drinking and smoking legal for teens since they are going to do it anyways. This is going to lead to a very high teen pregnancy rate in Texas since teens have nothing to fear from having underaged sex anymore.

    I say there should be no such thing as consensual sex under 18. if your under 18 and you have sex it should auto be considered rape for both parties.

    1. NiteNurse says:

      And let’s put all the women in berkas! WOW who knew the Taliban was alive and well in North Texas. By the way let’s stone all the women who have sex with men who aren’t their husbands as well!

    2. Sharon Ayers Bartells says:

      The current laws do not punish anyone under 18 for having sex. Not knowing their partners are under 18 is not a defense, even if that minor has fake ID and is buying drinks in a bar. In fact, many of the underaged will declare themselves victims and collect from the victim’s compensation fund. This law will not encourage sexual behavior – certainly not more than today’s music, movies and television do. It will however protect our young men (and occasionally women) from being branded for life with a label they don’t deserve.

  6. jerry says:

    This is going to lead to a very high teen pregnancy rate in Texas since teens have nothing to fear from having underaged sex anymore. And get this the taxes payer going more of sex education and then welfare the teens mom. Our Homecoming Queen was knock up and school still let her become prom queen. I said to hell with world (2012 is coming)

    1. NiteNurse says:

      Now really, how many guys or girls in that age range think about the legal age of having sex? Believe me the teen pregnancy rate isn’t going to sky rocket. The law is just going to prevent some young people from having their ENTIRE lives ruined just because they had sex with someone a few years younger. Do you honestly want an 18 year old kid who had sex with a 16 year old on the sex offender list for 10 years???

  7. Everwatchful Overyou says:

    With all the sex education, TV, movies and the internet streaming all you ever wanted to know about sex, it is hard to imagine ant 15 year old girls you could sneak up on. Girls mature much faster than boys because they have to in self defense. If anything goes wrong, they are the ones who get pregnant. So the law should apply both ways or it is a stupid law. And any underaged girl who shows uo for an abortion should be required to name the father and be considered an accesory before, during and aftet the fact.

    1. NiteNurse says:

      Do you know how many guys would be wrongfully be accused of being a baby’s daddy if that was the case?

  8. ilvrw says:

    Should it be a crime to have sex before 18? Yes. Should it carry the consequenses of being on a registry for 10 years? No. Should BOTH parties who had sex be charged? Yes. It is like underage drinking. It’s wrong and we do need to have boundries for it or we will be paying for those sonograms we just passed into law.

  9. Mike Smith says:

    It is an absolute travesty of justice for this man to have been placed on a sex offender registry for consensual sex. They were 15, they knew that they were doing. This law is the right thing to do. And you naysayers, just shut your mouths and pretend to read the Bibles you cling so tightly to.

  10. Mike Smith says:

    ilvrw you are so wrong it’s scary. They shouldn’t be CHARGED with anything, they should just be CAREFUL. No babies were the result of these acts. Who is to say that sex wasn’t just “oral sex” or a handjob? You don’t know.
    Teens have plenty to fear from underage sex, morons…they all watch 16 and Pregnant, and Teen Moms on MTV…why do you think the teen pregnancy rate has gone down for so many years? Give me a break. It makes no sense to ruin a man’s life for consensual sex of a young lady at 15 just because she’s not 18. Kids are going to do it anyway, and as long as there’s no voilence or intimidation involved then so be it.

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