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Navigating New Jersey's complex statutory rape laws

While most people have heard the phrase statutory rape, few actually know the specifics as to how statutory rape laws work - especially since these laws can vary a great deal from state to state.

Given this complexity, it is no wonder why many young people - particularly high school students - often find themselves thoroughly confused as to whether they are breaking any laws when engaging in consensual sexual encounters. In fact, many questions often run through their heads. Will we get into trouble if both of us are underage? Will one, or both, of us possibly face statutory rape charges?

Fortunately, New Jersey law provides answer to these, and many other, questions.

New Jersey's Romeo & Juliet law

While the general age of consent in New Jersey is 16, most teenagers would agree that it doesn't seem fair for a 17-year-old high school junior to face sexual assault charges for having consensual sexual relations with a 15-year-old sophomore. Well, New Jersey lawmakers obviously agree, which is why they passed the state's close-in-age exemption, which is often referred to as a Romeo & Juliet law.

Essentially, New Jersey's Romeo & Juliet law works like this: An individual who is older than 13, but less than 16, can have consensual sex with another person, so long as the second individual is fewer than four years older than the first individual. For instance, if 17-year-old has consensual sex with a 15-year-old, it is not sexual assault in New Jersey. However, if the older individual is now 20-years-old, it is sexual assault, even if the sex is consensual.

It is important to note, however, that this is merely a simple explanation of New Jersey's Romeo & Juliet law, and therefore should not be relied upon nor considered legal advice. If you have any questions - or are already facing sex-related criminal charges - it is always best to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

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