There are very few crimes that cause a more immediate and negative impact on the life of an accused than sex offenses. Despite the fact that the law dictates that an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty in the United States, the public often passes judgment on an accused based on the mere accusation when that accusation involves a sex offense – particularly when the alleged victim is a minor. What is the alleged “victim” claims the conduct was consensual though? Most states, including Nebraska, make a distinction between a situation where the accused is an adult and the alleged victim a young child and a situation where both the accused and the alleged victim are teenagers or close in age. The latter scenario is often addressed by what have come to be called “Romeo and Juliet” laws, after the Shakespearean star-crossed lovers. An Omaha sex crimes lawyer explains Nebraska’s Romeo and Juliet law and how it might apply if you have been accused of a sex crime.
Sexual Assault Laws in Nebraska
The State of Nebraska does not recognize a crime known as “rape.” Nebraska Revised Statute 28-319 et seq., however, governs the crime of sexual assault which covers what most people think of when they refer to rape. Sexual assault can be charged as a first, second, or third-degree felony in Nebraska. For example:
Neb. Rev. Stat. 28-319 – 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.
Neb. Rev. Stat. 28-319.01 — A person commits sexual assault of a child in the first degree:
(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.
Neb. Rev. Stat. 28-320.01 — A person commits sexual assault of a child in the second or third degree if he or she subjects another person fourteen years of age or younger to sexual contact and the actor is at least nineteen years of age or older.
The Age of Consent and Romeo and Juliet
What you will notice after reading through the various sexual assault laws in Nebraska is that the law makes a distinction when the alleged victim is under the age of 16 because 16 is the age of consent in Nebraska. Consent is a word that is often misunderstood when discussing sex offenses. When the alleged victim is under the age of consent, the facts are irrelevant because consent cannot be given. In other words, it doesn’t matter if the alleged victim is the one who initiated the sexual conduct nor does it matter if he/she told the whole world that the conduct was welcome and wanted. The law looks only at the alleged victim’s age when considering the ability to consent.
Romeo and Juliet laws are laws that carve out an exception to the state’s sexual assault/rape laws or that impose considerably less serious penalties for a violation of those laws in situations where the accused is an adult but is very close in age to the alleged victim and had a romantic relationship with the alleged victim. In Nebraska, the Romeo and Juliet exception prevents someone who is 18 years of age or younger from being convicted of sexual assault if the alleged victim is 15 years of age or older. The law is inflexible, meaning if you turned 19 the day before the alleged conduct or if the alleged victim was turning 15 the day after the alleged conduct – you cannot make use of the Romeo and Juliet exception.
Contact an Omaha Sex Crime Lawyer at Petersen Law Office
If you have been charged with a sex offense in the State of Nebraska, do not hesitate to consult with an experienced sex crime lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case.