Romeo and Juliet laws impact sex crime penalties in many states throughout the country.
Unfortunately for individuals facing sexual assault of a child charges, Wisconsin law does not include a Romeo and Juliet provision. Instead, the age of consent in Wisconsin is firmly set at 18.
While the age of consent is firm, specific laws in Wisconsin build in exceptions when the perpetrator is close in age to the victim. Other statutes rely on the fact that marriage is involved to mitigate the penalties. And while these laws impact defendants similarly to Romeo and Juliet laws, they’re not quite as broad.
At Van Severen Law Office, S.C., our criminal defense attorneys regularly defend individuals facing all kinds of sexual assault charges. Whether it’s a relatively mitigated offense like as a Class A misdemeanor, such as having sex with a minor over 16 years old charge, or a Class A felony, such as repeatedly sexually assaulting a child, we can help. Contact us immediately at (414) 270-0202 and let’s schedule a free consultation.
What are Romeo and Juliet laws?
Romeo and Juliet laws were designed to lessen penalties associated with statutory rape laws. Specifically, these laws focus on teenagers who engage in voluntary sexual acts with someone older than they are. Interpretations vary by state, but they all have the same general purpose. In no instance do these laws lessen penalties for sex charges involving lack of consent, violence, or extreme differences in age.
Romeo and Juliet laws usually don’t make sexual activity involving teenagers legal. Instead, they exist to prevent the offender from having to register as a sex offender. These laws only apply when there is a small age difference between the two parties. For example, in no state does a Romeo and Juliet law make it legal for a 30 year old to have sexual relations with a 15 year old. But in a lot of examples, the law allows an 18 year old and 16 year old to engage in the relationship.
What are the laws in Wisconsin?
There is no Romeo and Juliet law in Wisconsin. But specific charges include built-in mitigators that either reduce the charge or lessen the penalty.
Possession of child pornography is one example of a Wisconsin law that operates similarly to Romeo and Juliet laws in other states. Normally, possession of child pornography is a Class D felony, carrying a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison, $100,000.00 in fines, or both. But by following the law, an 18-year-old who possesses a pornographic image of his 17-year-old girlfriend is breaking the law. 25 years in prison is certainly a significant penalty for something that’s non-criminal a year later.
Lawmakers recognized this and created section 948.12(3)(b), which reduces the penalty to a Class I felony, punishable by up to 3.5 years in prison and $10,000.00 in fines. While this reduction in penalties certainly helps the situation, lawmakers also created a loophole allowing these young offenders to avoid sex offender registration. Section 301.45(1m) creates the loophole. Importantly, offenses can’t be violent, can’t involve sexual intercourse, and must cohere to a few other requirements. But if successful, the young offender need not register as a sex offender.
Breaking down section 301.45(1m) of the Wisconsin Statutes
Young adult offenders need not register as a sex offender (for any offense) if the following apply:
- Firstly, the violation, or the solicitation of a violation, did not involve sexual intercourse, either by use or threat of force or violence.
- Secondly, the offense did not involve sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 12 years.
- Thirdly, the defendant was under 19 years of age. The defendant was not more than 4 years older than the child.
- The court must find that, in the interest of public protection, it is not necessary for the defendant to apply with reporting requirements.
While these requirements seem straightforward, the final requirement is potentially problematic. Certain judges could simply say that all defendants fail this requirement. In other words, the public must be protected from all defendants in sex crime cases.
Crimes focused on similarly aged parties
In addition to penalty mitigation, Wisconsin lawmakers created specific laws focused on age. Sexual intercourse with a child age 16 or older is one example. The law says:
Whoever has sexual intercourse with a child who is not the defendant’s spouse and who has attained the age of 16 years is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor if the defendant has attained the age of 19 years when the violation occurs.
This law is straightforward. It focuses on defendants aged 19 or older and victims aged 16 or older. This charge is a Class A misdemeanor, carrying a maximum penalty of 9 months in jail. Additionally, it does not include any kind of sex offender registry requirement. And finally, while marriage does not typically bar prosecution, it’s clear that an individual cannot be prosecuted under this section if he or she is married to the victim.
Contact Van Severen Law Office, S.C. for help: (414) 270-0202
Facing a sexual assault charge is a scary situation, and you’re probably wondering what to do next. While there are plenty of important steps that you need to take, the first one is to hire a top sexual assault defense attorney. You’ll meet a few of those attorneys at Van Severen Law Office, S.C. And also importantly, all of our criminal defense attorneys offer free consultations. At that free consultation, we’ll sit down and figure out how exactly we should begin fighting your case. We’ll discuss the charges you face and how to attack them. You’ll have the chance to ask questions of the attorney and figure out if we’re a good match.
To move forward with a consultation, contact us immediately at (414) 270-0202. Our 24/7 answering service ensures that a human answers your call and gets your message to where it needs to be.