By Judy Molland
In many states, the law makes little distinction between these two scenarios.
Take the case of [name withheld], of Royal Oak, Michigan, who was an 18-year-old senior in high school when he was arrested for having sex with his girlfriend [girlfriend name withheld], a 14-year-old freshman, in 2004. The age of consent in Michigan is 16. He got sentenced to a year in jail and three years of probation.
The Daily Beast reports that when he got out of the county jail in 2005, he was 19 years old, and had a GED and a new job with his father’s contracting company. He stuck to his probation terms and didn’t see [girlfriend name withheld]. That lasted for the first few months, but then she contacted him, and he started secretly seeing her. Big mistake: the two teens resumed their relationship, which was a violation of his probation, and [name withheld] got another five to 15 years.
After spending more than six years behind bars, [name withheld] today must wear a GPS device that weighs almost a pound. The 26-year-old is also listed on the sex-offender registry, which notes his home address and other personal information, for 25 years.
All this for falling in love as a high school teenager and acting foolishly?
From The Daily Beast:
No one keeps a tally of how many cases fall into this category nationwide. But there is one measure of the scale of the movement: there are now more than 50 organizations—at least one in every state—battling against prosecutions like these. Baldino’s group is Michigan Citizens for Justice, which she says includes more than 100 parents. Another group in Michigan, the Coalition for a Useful Registry, has around 150 parents as members, it says. Organizations in other states report similar numbers. One of the largest, Texas Voices, claims some 300 parents as members.
Not all states have adopted “Romeo and Juliet” laws, and such laws operate differently in many of the states which have adopted them. In some states, they allow a defense against criminal charges for statutory rape. In other states, they shift the offense to a lower level, such as a misdemeanor. In some places, Romeo and Juliet laws reduce the level of punishment for the offense – imposing only probation or a fine, or eliminating the requirement to register as a sex offender, for example.
In addition, the age of consent for sex varies by state, between 16 and 18, so sex can be a crime in one state and not another.
But the bottom line is that the law needs to change nationwide, so that all states distinguish between a 50-year-old molesting a young girl, and two teens having sex.
What do you think?