Romeo and Juliet Law needed in Alabama

by ParkmanLaw on September 3, 2013

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Several years ago, one of our Birmingham criminal attorneys at Parkman & White, LLC represented a young man charged with Rape II, also known in Alabama as Statutory Rape.  Alabama’s Code makes it a Class B felony, for a person 16 years of age or older to have sexual relations with a person older than 12 and younger than 16 if the “offender” is more than 2 years older than “the member of the opposite sex.”

Class B felonies are serious in and of themselves, being punishable by from 2 to 20 years in the State penitentiary.  However, a statutory rape conviction also requires the offender to register as a sex offender.  While these laws are well meaning, and intended to protect our children, in some cases, they have unintended consequences, ruining promising lives.

In the case we represented, the young man, a talented athlete, had trouble with math.   As an 18 year-old senior in high school, he was placed in a math class with 15 year old ninth graders.  He sat next to a 15 year-old girl, who helped tutor him in math, and eventually became his girlfriend.  The couple dated for many months, and eventually engaged in sexual activity.

The young girl’s parents discovered their sexual behavior and were enraged.  The boy and girl confessed their sins and asked for forgiveness.  Rather than handle the matter privately, the parents called law enforcement and had the boy arrested for Statutory Rape.   Not only did he lose an athletic scholarship and the chance at a free college education due to his arrest, but also was unable to enroll in the military, all because he had sex with is girlfriend, who he sat next to in math class.  Little to no punishment was imposed upon her, despite the fact she was a more than willing participant in the sex.

While we were able to obtain youthful offender treatment for the client, our criminal attorneys have seen similar instances where youthful offender treatment was denied for one reason or another, leaving the young offender as a convicted felon and sex offender.

The criminal attorneys at Parkman & White, LLC feel such results are ridiculous, and the time has come for a “Romeo and Juliet Law” to be passed in Alabama.  Romeo and Juliet laws are named after the young lovers in William Shakespeare’s play, named after them.  In Shakespeare’s play, the young lovers, believed to be 16 and 13, would have engaged in behavior, which would have resulted in Romeo being prosecuted criminally if it happened in Alabama.

There are many different versions of “Romeo and Juliet laws” across the country.  Our criminal attorneys support a new law to supplement Alabama’s existing statutory rape law.  This new law should make sex between anyone under the age of 19, who is within 4 years of age of their sexual partner, no longer guilty of a Class B felony, but instead a Class A misdemeanor that is not required to register as a sex offender.  This change would prevent the passion of youth from labeling the offender as a “sex offender”, and also would protect the offender’s right to vote and carry a firearm.  To protect against reoffending, we would support making it a Class C felony for any conviction after the offender has been convicted of the Class A misdemeanor, if they still qualify for the amendment.

However, under our proposal, once the offender reaches the age of 20, the existing law would apply, and they would be facing a Class B felony and registration as a sex offender.

Our criminal attorneys in Birmingham will be presenting this amendment to Alabama’s Statutory Rape law in the upcoming legislative session to try to bring some common sense to Alabama’s existing Rape II statute.

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