Written by attorney Tracey M. Martin-Henry

Michigan's New "Romeo + Juliet Law": How Will It Affect You?

DETROIT--Shakespeare once said something about, let's "kill all the lawyers." However, in Michigan, competent legal counsel can help teen lovers, with a four year age difference up until age 18, stay off Michigan's sex offender registry list, which can be a real drag. Until now, Michigan residents who broke the law as teens for having consensual sex with someone under 16 were lumped in with the rest of the Michigan sex offender registry. But, Governor Rick Snyder recently signed a change in the law that becomes effective July 1, 2011. The "Romeo and Juliet" law reform basically protects certain individuals from having to otherwise be on the sex offender list. There is a difference between most sex offenders who should be on the list and "Romeos and Juliets" who made an error in judgment during their youth. Some believe that teens should not be involved in sexual activity at such a young age, but they also believe that the older of the two lovers is not a sexual offender if it's consensual." Others fear the law will encourage unacceptable behavior e.g 17-year-olds having sex with 13-year-olds. However, according to Michigan law, having sex with someone under the age of 16 is still illegal and punishable by law. The "Romeo and Juliet" law simply lessens the penalty for those who are no more than four (4) years older than their sex partner. Michiganders must understand that when it comes to sex with teens, everything is still illegal. All criminal consequences that would otherwise be there are still there, for example: prison time for a conviction stemming from a felony offense. The new law just recognizes certain circumstances where people who are within four years of each other in a consensual, oftentimes, dating relationship. Michigan Law Bottom Line: An 18-year-old having sex with a 14 year old would not go on the sex offender list, but a 19-year-old would. The law IS NOT automatically retroactive, but if a person was previously placed on a sex offender list for a Romeo and Juliet-type situation, that person can now petition (with legal assistance from a criminal defense lawyer) to have their name removed. Again--the new Romeo + Juliet law becomes effective July 1, 2011.

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