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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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New York Romeo and Juliet Laws

By Spodek Law Group | July 17, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 15, 2023)

Last Updated on: 15th October 2023, 12:49 pm

New York’s “Five Year Rule” for Reduced Penalties

While New York does not have an official Romeo and Juliet law, it does have some provisions in its statutory rape laws that recognize close-in-age relationships and provide for reduced penalties in certain situations:

  • If the victim is 15, 16, or 17 years old, and the defendant is less than 5 years older, any sexual conduct is a misdemeanor offense.
  • If the victim is under 13 and the defendant is less than 4 years older, any sexual conduct is a misdemeanor offense.

So while not a full exemption, the “five year rule” allows for reduced charges and penalties for consensual sexual activity between teens or a teen and a young adult within five years of age.

However, it’s crucial to understand this is not a full defense against charges. Any sexual contact with a minor under 17 can still potentially result in a misdemeanor or felony charge. The five year rule only reduces the penalties.

Penalties for Statutory Rape in New York

The penalties for statutory rape, or having sexual contact with a minor, depend on the ages of the victim and defendant:

  • If the victim is under 13 and the defendant is 21 or older, it is rape in the first degree, a class B felony with penalties up to 25 years in prison.
  • If the victim is under 15 and the defendant is 18 or older, it is rape in the second degree, a class D felony with up to 7 years in prison.
  • If the victim is under 17 and the defendant is 21 or older, it is rape in the third degree, a class E felony with up to 4 years in prison.
  • If the victim is 15, 16, or 17, and the defendant is under 21, it is a misdemeanor with up to 1 year in jail.

In addition to potential prison time, those convicted of statutory rape in New York may have to register as sex offenders. This can severely limit housing, employment, and other opportunities for many years after serving a sentence.

Romeo and Juliet Laws in Other States

Many other states have formal Romeo and Juliet laws that provide exemptions from statutory rape charges if the individuals are close in age. For example:

  • In New Jersey, the age of consent is 16. But there is an exemption for those 13-15 to consent to a partner less than 4 years older.
  • In Texas, the age of consent is 17, but a Romeo and Juliet defense allows those 14-16 to consent to partners within 3 years of age.
  • In California, the age of consent is 18. But those 14-17 can consent to a partner less than 10 years older.

So in these states, the Romeo and Juliet laws provide broader protections for consensual teen relationships, compared to the limited provisions of New York’s five year rule.

If you or someone you know is facing charges related to a consensual sexual relationship between teens, it is important to understand New York’s laws and seek experienced legal help. While the five year rule may provide some protections, you still need legal advice to avoid harsh penalties.

A criminal defense lawyer can help raise defenses, negotiate with prosecutors, and work to get charges reduced or dismissed where possible under the law. They can also help file appropriate petitions with the court asserting protections under New York’s provisions for close-in-age relationships.

With experienced legal guidance, some teens may avoid prison time and sex offender registration. But you need knowledgeable legal help to navigate New York’s complex laws and limited Romeo and Juliet protections. Consult an attorney right away to protect your rights and future.


While New York does not have a formal Romeo and Juliet law, the state’s “five year rule” does allow for reduced penalties for consensual sexual activity between teens or a teen and a young adult within five years of age. However, there are limitations, and sexual contact with minors is still illegal. For anyone facing related charges, experienced legal help is critical to avoid harsh punishments intended for adult sexual predators. But with the right guidance, some teens may be able to invoke New York’s provisions for close-in-age relationships and avoid the severe penalties of statutory rape convictions.

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