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Romeo and Juliet Laws Vermont

March 21, 2024

Romeo and Juliet Laws in Vermont – A Helpful Guide

Romeo and Juliet Laws in Vermont – A Helpful Guide

Romeo and Juliet laws are provisions that provide defenses or exemptions from prosecution for consensual sexual acts between minors who are close in age. These laws are designed to prevent older minors from being prosecuted for having consensual sex with their younger partners. Vermont has its own Romeo and Juliet laws that provide protections for certain minors engaged in consensual sexual acts.

This article will provide a helpful overview of Vermont’s Romeo and Juliet laws, including the age of consent, close-in-age exemptions, reporting requirements, and potential defenses. We’ll also discuss some of the implications, pros and cons, and legal precedents related to these laws. Our goal is to explain these laws in simple, easy-to-understand language to help people understand their rights and responsibilities.

Vermont’s Age of Consent

In Vermont, the age of consent is 16 years old. This means anyone aged 16 or older can legally consent to sexual activity. If one partner is under 16, any sexual contact could constitute statutory rape, even if the younger partner willingly engaged in the act. However, Vermont has close-in-age exemptions and a Romeo and Juliet law that provide some protections.

Vermont’s Close-in-Age Exemptions

Vermont has a close-in-age exemption that allows minors aged 12-13 to consent to sexual activity with a partner who is less than 5 years older. For example, a 13-year-old can legally consent to sex with an 18-year-old under this law. Another close-in-age exemption allows minors aged 14-15 to consent to partners less than 4 years older. So a 15-year-old could legally have sex with a 19-year-old under this exemption[4].

Vermont’s Romeo and Juliet Law

Vermont also has a Romeo and Juliet exemption that applies to consensual sexual acts between minors who are 13, 14, or 15 years old, and partners less than 19 years old. This law protects these minors from prosecution for statutory rape and other sex crimes as long as the age difference is less than 4 years[2].

For example, a 14-year-old and an 18-year-old could legally engage in consensual sex without fear of prosecution under this Romeo and Juliet provision. However, once the older partner turns 19, they could face criminal charges if they continue the sexual relationship with a partner under 16.

Mandatory Reporting Requirements

While Vermont’s Romeo and Juliet law exempts certain consensual sexual acts from prosecution, adults may still be required to report these relationships to authorities under mandatory reporting laws. Vermont law requires teachers, health professionals, child care workers and other adults to report suspected child abuse or neglect to the Department for Children and Families.

This means even if a sexual relationship between minors is legal under Romeo and Juliet laws, adults may be obligated to report it if they believe abuse or exploitation is occurring. Mandatory reporters could face penalties for failing to report.

Defenses to Statutory Rape

Even if a sexual relationship between minors does not fall under Vermont’s Romeo and Juliet exemption, the accused may still have some defenses to statutory rape charges. Some potential statutory rape defenses in Vermont include:

  • Reasonable belief the minor was over the age of consent
  • Lack of sexual penetration (statutory rape requires penetration in VT)
  • No sexual contact occurred
  • Misidentification (the defendant is not the perpetrator)

An experienced criminal defense attorney can evaluate the specific circumstances of the case and determine if any defenses apply. Consulting a lawyer is highly recommended before making any statements to police or prosecutors.

Implications of Romeo and Juliet Laws

Romeo and Juliet laws are designed to be fair and prevent harsh punishments for consensual teen relationships. But these laws also have some potential drawbacks or criticisms:

  • May discourage teens from seeking parental guidance about relationships
  • Could enable predatory or abusive behavior by older teens
  • May still result in adult sex offender registration in some cases
  • Mandatory reporting makes some teens reluctant to seek medical care

There are good-faith arguments on both sides of this issue. Overall, the intent behind Romeo and Juliet laws seems to be protecting consensual relationships while still providing some safeguards against abuse.

Legal Precedents Related to Romeo and Juliet Laws

There are several notable court cases that have shaped and challenged Romeo and Juliet laws across the United States:

  • Ginsberg v. New York, 390 U.S. 629 (1968) – U.S. Supreme Court ruled that laws prohibiting the sale of obscene materials to minors were constitutional and did not violate the First Amendment.
  • Michael M. v. Superior Court of Sonoma County, 450 U.S. 464 (1981) – Supreme Court upheld a statutory rape law that only applied to men, ruling sex-based classifications can be justified when protecting vulnerable females from exploitation.
  • Kansas v. Limon, 280 Kan. 275 (2005) – Kansas Supreme Court struck down a law that imposed harsher penalties for homosexual statutory rape than heterosexual. Ruled it violated Equal Protection rights.

These cases and others have shaped the legal landscape around age of consent and statutory rape laws. The precedents reinforce the government’s compelling interest in protecting minors from sexual exploitation while also limiting laws that could violate constitutional rights.


We hope this overview has helped explain Vermont’s Romeo and Juliet laws and provided useful information about statutory rape defenses and exemptions. The laws are complex, so consulting an attorney is recommended if you have any questions or believe charges may be filed in a specific case. While the laws aim to be fair, being informed is the best way for teens and young adults to protect themselves and make responsible decisions.


[1] Vermont Statutory Rape and Age of Consent Laws
[2] Vermont Age of Consent & Statutory Rape Laws – AgeOfConsent
[3] Vermont Age of Consent Laws – LegalMatch
[4] Vermont Sexual Assault Laws
[5] Vermont Consent Laws – RAINN
[6] Vermont Legal Age of Consent
Vermont Mandated Reporting Laws

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