24/7 call for a free consultation 212-300-5196




When you’re facing a federal issue, you need an attorney whose going to be available 24/7 to help you get the results and outcome you need. The value of working with the Spodek Law Group is that we treat each and every client like a member of our family.

Client Testimonials



The BEST LAWYER ANYONE COULD ASK FOR!!! Todd changed our lives! He’s not JUST a lawyer representing us for a case. Todd and his office have become Family. When we entered his office in August of 2022, we entered with such anxiety, uncertainty, and so much stress. Honestly we were very lost. My husband and I felt alone. How could a lawyer who didn’t know us, know our family, know our background represents us, When this could change our lives for the next 5-7years that my husband was facing in Federal jail. By the time our free consultation was over with Todd, we left his office at ease. All our questions were answered and we had a sense of relief.

schedule a consultation


Romeo and Juliet Laws Virginia

March 21, 2024

Romeo and Juliet Laws in Virginia

Romeo and Juliet Laws in Virginia

Virginia, like many other states, has laws on the books to address situations where teens who are close in age engage in consensual sexual activity. These laws, commonly known as “Romeo and Juliet” laws, provide protections from prosecution for statutory rape in cases where the participants are within a few years of age of each other.

Statutory rape laws in Virginia make it a crime for an adult to have sex with a minor under the age of consent, which is 18. But Romeo and Juliet laws recognize that consensual relationships between teens close in age are fundamentally different from predatory relationships between teens and adults. So Romeo and Juliet laws create exemptions to statutory rape charges for consensual activity between minors who are close in age.

Virginia’s Romeo and Juliet Laws

Virginia doesn’t have a single law that specifically lays out Romeo and Juliet exemptions. But provisions in several laws work together to provide protections for consensual teen relationships:

  • Children under 13 cannot legally consent to sexual activity under any circumstances in Virginia. Sex with a child under 13 is considered rape.
  • 13- and 14-year-olds can consent to sexual activity with a partner who is less than 3 years older.
  • 15-, 16-, and 17-year-olds can legally consent to sexual activity with a partner who is less than 5 years older.

So for example, a 17-year-old in Virginia can legally have consensual sex with a partner who is 16, 15, or 14. But if that 17-year-old has sex with a 13-year-old or younger, it is considered statutory rape.

These provisions allow teens who are close in age to have consensual relationships without fear of prosecution. So a high school senior who turns 18 doesn’t have to worry about facing statutory rape charges for continuing a relationship with a junior girlfriend who is 16 or 17.

Requirements for Romeo and Juliet Protections

For the Romeo and Juliet exemptions to apply, the sexual relationship must be truly consensual. There can be no force, threats, or coercion. And both parties must be willing participants.

In addition, Romeo and Juliet laws generally only apply to vaginal intercourse and related acts like oral sex. They do not apply to other crimes like sexual abuse or child pornography charges.

Benefits of Romeo and Juliet Laws

Romeo and Juliet laws recognize that consensual sexual activity is a normal part of adolescent development. Rigidly enforcing statutory rape laws in cases of consensual teen relationships serves no good public purpose. Romeo and Juliet laws take a more pragmatic approach by providing age-gap exemptions.

Romeo and Juliet laws also protect teens from the severe penalties associated with statutory rape convictions. Teens should not have to deal with sex offender registration, long prison terms, or other serious consequences for consensual relationships with peers close to their age.

At the same time, Romeo and Juliet laws preserve the ability to prosecute predatory adults who exploit minors. Providing exemptions for consensual peer relationships does not give adults license to sexually abuse teens.

Criticisms of Romeo and Juliet Laws

While Romeo and Juliet laws provide important protections for consensual teen relationships, there are some criticisms of these laws as well:

  • The age gaps allowed by Romeo and Juliet laws may be overly broad. For example, some argue that sexual relationships between a 14-year-old and an 18-year-old are inappropriate.
  • Romeo and Juliet laws could potentially shield some abusive relationships from prosecution if coercion cannot be proven.
  • Allowing any sexual activity between minors may promote risky behaviors resulting in teen pregnancy or STDs.

There are good-faith arguments on both sides of these issues. Lawmakers have to strike a difficult balance between protecting teens and providing reasonable exceptions for consensual conduct.

Takeaways on Romeo and Juliet Laws in Virginia

Here are some key points to understand about Romeo and Juliet laws in Virginia:

  • They provide limited protections from statutory rape charges for consensual sexual activity between minors close in age.
  • The age gaps allowed are 3 years for 13- and 14-year-olds, and 5 years for 15-, 16-, and 17-year-olds.
  • The protections only apply to vaginal intercourse and related acts between willing teens.
  • There are valid criticisms about age-gap breadth and risks of teen sexual activity.

While imperfect, Romeo and Juliet laws aim to strike a balance between punishing predatory behavior and allowing teens to exercise age-appropriate relationship autonomy. Understanding the nuances of these laws can help teens, parents, educators, and law enforcement in Virginia navigate this complex issue of adolescent sexuality.


Learn more about Romeo and Juliet laws in Virginia:

Lawyers You Can Trust

Todd Spodek

Founding Partner

view profile



view profile


Associate Attorney

view profile



view profile



view profile



view profile



view profile

Criminal Defense Lawyers Trusted By the Media

schedule a consultation
Schedule Your Consultation Now