Nebraska’s Romeo and Juliet Laws


Simply being charged, not even convicted, of sexual assault can have negative effects on your life. It can cause you to lose your job, have your reputation ruined, and even cause family issues. Not to mention with a charge, you are still arrested and must pay a bond to be released. That is only the beginning of the distress that comes with sexual assault charge. If you are accused of sexual assault, it is important that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.

Age of Consent and Statutory Rape in Nebraska

In the state of Nebraska, the age of consent is 16. This means that individuals age 16 and older may consensually have sex with an adult (someone over the age of 19) without the adult facing criminal charges. If the person is under the age of 15 or younger and the adult is at least 20 years old, then it becomes statutory rape which is seen as a form of sexual assault in Nebraska. The degree of sexual assault that it is considered is based on the age of the victim and the defendant. Even if the person who is under age consents to the sexual activity, the sexual activity is considered sexual assault.

Sexual Assault of a Child – First Degree

The statutory rape laws of Nebraska are split into two types. The first being sexual assault of a child in the first degree. According to Neb. Rev. Stat. 28-319.01, first-degree sexual assault of a child occurs:

(a) When he or she subjects another person under twelve years of age to sexual penetration and the actor is at least nineteen years of age or older; or

(b) When he or she subjects another person who is at least twelve years of age but less than sixteen years of age to sexual penetration and the actor is twenty-five years of age or older.

It seen as a Class IB felony. According to Nebraska Revised Statute 28-105, a class IB felony is punishable by a mandatory minimum of 15 years imprisonment for the first offense. A mandatory minimum offense means that if convicted, the defendant will sit in prison for every day of 15 years before being considered for parole or mandatory discharge.

First Degree Sexual Assault

The second type is first-degree sexual assault. According to Neb. Rev. Stat. 28-319.01, first-degree sexual assault occurs when:

(1) Any person who subjects another person to sexual penetration (a) without the consent of the victim, (b) who knew or should have known that the victim was mentally or physically incapable of resisting or appraising the nature of his or her conduct, or (c) when the actor is nineteen years of age or older and the victim is at least twelve but less than sixteen years of age is guilty of sexual assault in the first degree.

First degree sexual assault is considered a Class II felony. According to Nebraska Revised Statute 28-105, a Class II felony is punishable by a mandatory minimum of one year imprisonment and can be punishable by up to 50 years imprisonment.

Romeo and Juliet Laws

The “Romeo and Juliet” exemption was put into place by Nebraska lawmakers to protect minors from facing criminal charges for having consensual sex with other minors. Generally, with this law, anybody 18 years of age cannot be convicted of statutory rape as long as the other person is over the age of 12. Certain Romeo and Juliet Laws state a specific amount of age difference that is legal, such as a three-year age difference when the older individual is still under the age of 19. This exception aids in protecting minors when accused of statutory rape.

Who Does it Protect?

The “Romeo and Juliet” exemption does not protect anyone who is 19 years of age or older. They also do not protect relationships in which the elder is accused of abusing their authoritative relationship with the younger. A good example of this is a relationship between student and teacher. Another instance in which they generally are not applicable is when the sexual act contain some sort of violence or a threat of violence. While these laws are in place in Nebraska, there are certain states where they are not, and minors can be charges with statutory rape. So, it is in your best interest to find an attorney that can help you navigate the laws of your state.

Romeo and Juliet Laws and Reduced Penalties

In some instances, Romeo and Juliet laws do not completely remove charges, but simply lessen the conviction that a person may face. This includes not having to be a registered sex offender or lessening the time a person may have to be registered.  It can also lessen the severity of the penalty from a felony to a misdemeanor, and even allow for expungement. Age effects the charges extensively, so it is important to contact a lawyer if you are facing sexual assault charges.

Berry Law’s Sexual Assault Attorneys

Berry Law’s team of dedicated criminal defense attorneys have experience in defending clients from sexual assault charges, especially as they relate to the “Romeo and Juliet” exemption. If you or somebody you know is facing a sexual assault charge, contact our team of sexual assault attorneys today.

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