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Why Romeo and Juliet Should Avoid Wisconsin

Hearing or reading the word "rape" can be jarring. Most people define the term as forcible sexual contact between an aggressor and a non-consenting victim. The law generally refers to this as forcible rape.

The "forcible" distinction is necessary because there are instances in which consent is irrelevant. When one partner is younger than a certain age, that individual cannot legally consent to sex. Even if that underage partner participates willingly, the act is still considered rape - also known as statutory rape - under the law. Wisconsin's statutory rape and minor-related sex offender laws are some of the strictest in the nation. As a result, many teenagers have been prosecuted for acts they did not know were illegal.

How Wisconsin's Age Of Consent Law is Unique

Each state defines its own "age of consent," or the age at which a person can legally consent to sex. The majority of states set the age of consent at 16 or 17. Wisconsin is one of just 11 states where the younger partner must be at least 18 years old in order for a physical union to be potentially legal.

In Wisconsin, sex with a partner who is younger than 16 years old can be charged as a felony. Sex with a partner who is older than 16 but younger than 18 can be charged as a misdemeanor.

Wisconsin's Lack of 'Romeo and Juliet' Exemptions

In addition to a higher-than-normal age of consent, Wisconsin laws also lack an exemption for partners who are close in age. Many states have what are referred to as Romeo and Juliet laws. These are essentially common-sense exemptions for sex between partners who are close in age or who are both under the age of consent.

In Wisconsin, Romeo and Juliet laws do not exist. This means that someone can be criminally prosecuted for any type of sexual activity with a partner who is under the age of 18, even if the alleged "perpetrator" is also a minor. As just one example, a boyfriend and girlfriend who are both 15 years old could potentially be charged with criminal sex offenses if they engage in sexual acts with one another. Each would be considered both victim and perpetrator of a sex crime.

The Serious Consequences of a Statutory Rape Conviction

The simple truth is that many teenagers choose to have sex before they are 18 years of age. Most are never charged with a crime. Those who are charged may have been reported by girlfriend's or boyfriend's angry parents or caught in the act by a school official. Once prosecutors get involved, the consequences can be serious - including jail time and required registration as a sex offender.

If you or your teenage child has been charged with statutory rape or sex offense involving acts between minors, you cannot trust that police and prosecutors will be reasonable when handling your situation. You will need to enlist the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. An attorney can help to mitigate potential consequences associated with these offenses and can help to ensure that the future remains bright for those involved in these challenging legal situations.

statutory rape, sex offender registration, rape, sex between minors

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