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Kansas Supreme Court Selected Opinion Summaries
State v. Limon, Docket 85898
October 21, 2005

Summaries and press releases are prepared by Ron Keefover, Office of Judicial Administration, Kansas Judicial Center, 301 West 10th, Topeka, KS 66612-1507 (785-296-2256), e-mail: keefoverr@kscourts.org.

RE: Appeal No. 85,898: State v. Limon

The Supreme Court today unanimously ruled that the so-called Kansas "Romeo and Juliet" statute, which specifies significantly less punishment for unlawful sex acts between heterosexual minors compared to same sex acts involving minors, violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

Today's decision resulted from a U.S. Supreme Court order that the Kansas Court reconsider its earlier denial of an appeal by Matthew Limon, who received a 17-year prison sentence based on a consensual relationship with a co-resident of a group home. Limon was 18 at the time of the offense and the victim, 15. The presumptive sentence for the same act involving members of the opposite sex would have been 13, 14, or 15 months imprisonment.

The Romeo and Juliet statute applies to voluntary sexual intercourse and other sex acts if the act involves a child 14 or 15; the offender is less than 19 years of age and less than four years older than the victim; the victim and offender are the only ones involved, and the victim and offender are members of the opposite sex. The statute would have applied to Limon except for the provision limiting its application to acts between members of the opposite sex.

The Kansas Court of Appeals earlier had held that the sentencing disparity did not violate the U.S. Constitution and the Kansas Supreme Court declined to review that decision. However, after an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court the matter was remanded back to the Kansas courts with directions to determine whether Limon's sentence complied with a decision the U.S. Supreme Court filed in 2003 declaring a similar statute in Texas unconstitutional.

Writing for the court, Justice Marla J. Luckert said the U.S. Supreme Court decision required a determination that the Kansas statute is unconstitutional as a violation of the United States and Kansas Constitutions. She wrote, however, that the Romeo and Juliet law can remain in place by striking the words "and are members of the opposite sex" from it.

"We further grant Limon's requested remedy of imposing a time limit upon further proceedings in this case and order that the State will have 30 days in which to: (1) charge Limon under the statute without the words 'members of the opposite' sex or (2) take other action," the opinion concludes.