A “Romeo and Juliet” law is an exception in the law to prevent the prosecution of underage people who engage in consensual sex when both participants are significantly close in age, and one is below the age of consent. Named after William Shakespeare’s young lovers in the Romeo and Juliet play, these exceptions protect young people from criminal charges resulting from consensual sexual activity with other young people. People cannot be prosecuted for statutory rape or sexual battery who have engaged in sexual activity with one another and are within 36 months of each other. In Mississippi, the age of consent is 16 years old. At 16, a person is legally old enough to consent to sexual activity. Individuals aged 15 or younger cannot legally consent to sexual activity, and such action could result in prosecution for statutory rape or sexual battery. In Mississippi, statutory rape laws are violated when a person has consensual sexual intercourse with an individual under 16 and who is not their spouse. A close-in-age exemption exists when the age gap between the parties is less than 36 months.
Statutory Rape in Mississippi:
In Mississippi, a person commits statutory rape by having sexual intercourse with a 14 or 15-year-old child when the defendant is age 17 or older and more than three years older than the child. For example, a 17-year-old who has had consensual sex with a 15-year-old cannot be criminally prosecuted in Mississippi. However, sex with anyone younger than 14 is always a crime and can carry a possible sentence of life imprisonment. (Miss. Code Ann. §§ 97-3-65, 97-3-95 (2018).)