Does Missouri Have a “Romeo and Juliet” Law for Statutory Rape and Consent?

In Missouri, sexual intercourse with someone younger than 17 can put a person in prison—that is, unless they are protected by the state’s “Romeo and Juliet law.” The law as stated can be confusing, and those worried about (or accused of) statutory rape might not know their rights. This is where it helps to know what the law actually says with regard to sexual acts with minors.

When is Sex with a Minor Statutory Rape in Missouri?  

Missouri Revised Statute §566.032 spells out when sexual intercourse is statutory rape and what the consequences are of this felony offense. When an adult has sexual intercourse with someone under age 14 they have committed statutory rape in the first degree. 

The statutory rape law also protects teens aged 14 to 17. Sexual intercourse between an individual who is 21 years of age or older and a person who is between the ages of 14 and 17 years old is statutory rape in the second degree according to Missouri Revised Statute §566.034, a class D felony.

The Romeo and Juliet Law Applies to Sex Between Teens

While the law prohibits sexual activity between an adult and a person younger than 17, consensual sex between two teens is legal in some cases. It depends on the ages of the individuals involved. 

Missouri Revised Statute §566.071, known as the Romeo and Juliet Law, states that individuals who are less than 17 years old cannot have sexual contact with anyone who is four years or more younger than them. If sexual contact occurs, the accused faces a felony charge of sexual molestation. Sexual intercourse with a person who is 13 years old and younger is always a crime. 

Consequences of a Statutory Rape Conviction 

When an individual is convicted of statutory rape in Missouri, their life changes forever. The state mandates minimum prison terms for the severity of these crimes.  

  • The minimum sentence for statutory rape when the victim was less than 12 years old is ten years in prison. The maximum sentence is life in prison. 
  • For cases in which the victim is aged 13 to 16, the minimum sentence is five years in prison. Judges are authorized to sentence those convicted to life in prison depending on the specifics of the crime.
  • An individual convicted of statutory rape who is a persistent sex offender is subject to an extended prison sentence. 
  • All individuals convicted of statutory rape must register as a Missouri sex offender.

Defending Those Accused of Statutory Rape 

Statutory rape cases are complicated, especially when both parties are minors. Thus, it is critical for anyone charged with such an offense to get help from a criminal defense lawyer. When an individual thinks they might be accused of statutory rape, such as a parent accused them of sexual contact with their teenager, they need to call a lawyer right away. When their accuser goes to the police, they definitely will be questioned because law enforcement is required by law to investigate all accusations of sexual misconduct.

The lawyers at Kirsch & Kirsch advise clients on what to say and what not to say during a police interrogation and throughout the legal process. If charges are filed, we do our own investigation into what happened. After our investigation, we represent our clients’ interests.   For example, we might point out that evidence is lacking for, or inconsistent with, the crime being charged. We might ask to have the case dismissed, or have the charges dropped to a lesser charge. Every case is different, so speaking with us is essential for putting together a legal plan of action.

We do everything possible to keep our client’s case out of court. If we are forced to defend a client before a judge and jury, we use one or several proven strategies for discovering and pointing out weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. This may involve pointing out to the judge and jury one or more of the following:

  1. Didn’t know. The accused did not know the real age of the victim and could not be expected to know the victim’s age.
  1. Didn’t happen. We state the statutory rape did not occur, and there is no evidence supporting the claim that it did.
  1. Wrong person. The accuser has wrongly identified the accused. 
  1. They are married. Missouri statutory rape law exempts people who are married to the accuser
  1. Forced confession. Law enforcement applied extreme measures to force the accused to confess. 

Contact Kirsch & Kirsch for Statutory Rape Defense

If you or your teen are accused of statutory rape, you need an attorney right away to begin a defense against a potential felony charge. Jefferson City criminal defense attorneys Kirsch & Kirsch use their expertise to protect your future. Call us at 573-261-5867 or leave us a message. We keep all communication confidential.