21 Sep 23

Romeo and Juliet Laws Alaska

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Last Updated on: 19th October 2023, 01:03 am

Romeo and Juliet Laws in Alaska

Romeo and Juliet Laws in Alaska

In Alaska, the age of consent for sexual activity is 16 years old. This means any person 16 or older can legally consent to sex. However, Alaska also has Romeo and Juliet laws that provide close-in-age exemptions for certain consensual sexual relationships involving a minor.

Alaska’s Romeo and Juliet provisions offer relatively limited protections compared to many other states. The defenses only apply in certain situations with restricted age gaps.

Background of Romeo and Juliet Laws

Romeo and Juliet laws are named after Shakespeare’s tragic young lovers, Romeo and Juliet. They provide legal defenses that can be used by defendants charged with statutory rape for engaging in consensual sexual activity with a minor.

The intent is to avoid criminalizing underage couples who willingly engage in sexual relationships. These laws recognize that teenagers often experiment sexually even if below the legal age of consent.

Most states have adopted some form of Romeo and Juliet laws, but Alaska’s provisions are relatively narrow.

Alaska’s Romeo and Juliet Provisions

Alaska has two relevant laws that provide defenses for certain consensual underage sex:

  1. Sexual abuse of a minor 2nd degree – Applies if the victim is 13-15 years old and the defendant is 16-18 years old.
  2. Sexual abuse of a minor 3rd degree – Applies if the victim is 13-15 years old and the defendant is under 18 years old.

So the defenses only apply in cases with restricted age gaps between the minor and the defendant. The provisions do not apply if the age difference is greater than about 3-5 years depending on the charges.

Limits of Alaska’s Laws

While Alaska provides some Romeo and Juliet protections, the defenses have strict limits:

  • No defense for victims 16-17 years old
  • 3-5 year maximum age gaps
  • Only applies to certain charges
  • Prosecutors can still bring charges

Overall, Alaska’s close-in-age exemptions are relatively narrow compared to many other states.

Debate Over Romeo and Juliet Laws

There are reasonable arguments on both sides of Romeo and Juliet laws:

Supporters argue:

  • Avoid unfair punishment for teen relationships
  • Acknowledge reality that minors often have sex
  • Allow flexibility for borderline cases
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Critics argue:

  • Arbitrary exceptions to clear age of consent
  • Still allow older teens to exploit younger ones
  • Difficult to determine if consent is voluntary

This complex issue continues to be debated in terms of finding the right balance in the law.

Comparison to Neighboring States

Alaska’s Romeo and Juliet provisions offer less flexibility than some nearby states and provinces:

  • Yukon, Canada – 5 year gap allowed for 12-18 year olds
  • Washington – 5 year gap if victim is 14-16
  • Oregon – 3 year gap allowed for all minors

So Alaska’s close-in-age exemptions are relatively limited regionally.

Practical Applications

In practice, Alaska’s Romeo and Juliet laws give prosecutors some discretion over charges for underage consensual relationships. For example:

  • A 15-year-old with an 18-year-old may avoid charges
  • A 16-year-old with a 20-year-old could still face prosecution

But prosecutors can take the circumstances into account when deciding whether to file charges.

Public Policy Considerations

Some argue Alaska should expand its Romeo and Juliet laws to better reflect social norms and avoid disproportionate penalties. Areas to consider include:

  • Extending protections to 16-17 year olds
  • Broadening permitted age gaps
  • Applying defenses more uniformly based on age gaps

But there are also good counterarguments for keeping stricter statutory rape laws to better protect young minors from exploitation.


Alaska does provide limited Romeo and Juliet defenses for certain consensual underage relationships. But its laws offer less flexibility than many other states.

Anyone considering a sexual relationship with a minor in Alaska needs to be aware of the strict age of consent and limited legal protections. Consult an attorney to understand the risks.

There are thoughtful points on both sides of debates around statutory rape laws and consent. Alaska has taken a more restrictive approach, but reasonable people can disagree on the right policy balance.


[1] Alaska Age of Consent & Statutory Rape Laws

[2] Alaska Statutory Rape Laws

[3] Alaska Rape and Sexual Assault Laws

[4] State by State Guide on Statutes of Limitations

[5] Alaska Senate passes bill scrapping marriage exception for sex crimes