Colorado Sex Crime Attorney Blog

A Story of Young Love: Colorado’s Age of Consent and Romeo + Juliet Laws

Posted by Kyle B. Sawyer | Mar 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

Claire is lonely. She doesn't fit in at her school in Adams County. And, she finds it difficult to feel at home in either of her divorced parent's homes. All she can dream about is finishing high school and forging her own way in the world. One day after school, one of her friends invites her to play volleyball in the park. Claire joins in on the game with enthusiasm, but the ball goes off course and hits her head with a resounding crack. Stunned for moment, she lays on the grass to recover, shutting her eyes to fend off the tears. She opens them to find a boy with kind eyes offering her his hand. This is how she meets Ryan.

[pullquote align=”right” textalign=”right” width=”40%”]The age difference doesn't matter in Claire and Ryan's eyes. [/pullquote]

The months after this first encounter are a whirlwind. Soon, Claire finds she spends more and more time with Ryan – he understands her, and really cares for her opinion: She doesn't get lost in the shuffle. Soon, their relationship blossoms, and Ryan and Claire discover they love each other. The age difference really doesn't matter – almost 15-year-old Claire has always been mature for her age, and Ryan is 19 – there is hardly any difference in their young minds. After all, they know they love each other. Claire has never told her mother about her relationship – with her mother's constant string of new boyfriends, Claire knew she wouldn't even really care. But, one day Claire's mother comes home when Ryan is visiting. [pullquote align=”left” textalign=”left” width=”40%”]One horrible day, Ryan is arrested for their relationship.[/pullquote]She is outraged and angry that her daughter kept such a secret. She takes one look at Ryan, and calls the police department.Soon, Ryan is arrested and charged with Sexual Assault – C.R.S. 18-3-402 (he could also be charged with Sexual Assault on a Child – C.R.S. 18-3-405). The trial is a whirlwind – Claire tells the jury over and over again she loves Ryan, but it doesn't matter. Ryan is convicted and sentenced for an indeterminate amount of time in the Colorado Department of Corrections. Upon his release, he will be a registered sex offender.

The Age of Consent and Romeo and Juliet Laws

Does this story sound familiar? Shakespeare wrote a similarly tragic story about two young lovers: Romeo and Juliet are a well-known and beloved couple. What most people don't realize is that if the story was modern, Romeo and Juliet would be scandalous – Romeo was considered to be 16, and Juliet 13. Because young love is a recognized social phenomenon, lawmakers realized they needed a way to distinguish between harmful sexual relationships between adults and children, and mutual relationships between young people in Denver, Jefferson, and Larimer County. Thus, the “Romeo and Juliet” law was created. This makes it possible for a teenager between the ages of 15 and 17 to consent to a relationship with an older person, as long as they are not more than ten years older. If a teenager is under the age of 15, they are able to consent to a relationship with someone older, as long as they are not more than four years older (read our full explanation of the Romeo and Juliet laws). Unfortunately for Claire and Ryan, the age difference was more than 4 years – so Ryan was held legally responsible for their sexual relationship.

Why You Need an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

Teenagers are becoming sexually active at much younger ages than in past years. But, they don't have an understanding or grasp of the legal consequences of their actions. Like Romeo and Juliet, they are caught up by love and don't realize they are making decisions which could have a negative impact on their future. If your child is in a relationship with someone younger in Douglas, Boulder, or Arapahoe County, be sure you know the law so you can protect your children.

Request a Free Consultation

If you have a child who is in a relationship with someone younger than them and you are concerned they could be charged with Sexual Assault or statutory rape, be smart, exercise your right to remain silent, and contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the O'Malley Law Office at 303-830-0880, or submit the “Get Help Now” form. Together, we can protect your future.

Image courtesy of photostock /

About the Author

Kyle B. Sawyer

I have a passion for defending others in criminal cases. I am able to empathize with my clients and understand their emotions and fears. I have a unique perspective on the criminal justice system and I understand what it feels like to be wrongly accused of a crime.


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