By HELEN POW
Utah Supreme Court justices have dubbed a 13-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy both sex offenders and victims for having sex with each other.
The Ogden girl and her boyfriend were each found guilty of violating a state law that prohibits sex with someone under age 14, after the 2003 encounter which resulted in the girl becoming pregnant.
The unnamed girl, who is now 23, is asking the high court to overturn the juvenile conviction, claiming the consensual sex shouldn't qualify as a crime because it doesn't for 16 or 17-year-olds who have sex with someone in their own age group, and she has a right to be treated equally under the law.
Oral arguments on the motion began this week and on Tuesday, the justices acknowledged they were struggling with the concept that the girl could be both victim and offender.
- What about the boy being offender and victim? Why only point out the female?
'The only thing that comes close to this is dueling,' said Associate Chief Justice Michael Wilkins, referring to two people who take 20 paces and then shoot each other.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Chief Justice Christine Durham labelled the predicament a 'peculiar consequence' and wondered if legislators had intended it.
State authorities filed delinquency - the term used for juvenile convictions - petitions in July 2004.
These alleged the boyfriend and girlfriend had each committed sexual abuse of a child, a second-degree felony if committed by an adult.
The girl appealed the petition, saying that because her boyfriend was the same age as her she shouldn't be penalized.
Children aged 14 or 15 can be charged with unlawful conduct with a minor if they have sex with a peer, but mitigation renders the offense a misdemeanor.
But for juveniles under 14, there is no mitigation as the law deems them incapable of consenting to sex.
A juvenile court judge denied the motion brought by the girl and the Utah Court of Appeals last December upheld the judge's refusal to dismiss the allegation, saying the law had to protect minors from each other as well as from older teens and adults.
The girl then appealed to the state Supreme Court.
During Tuesday's hearing, assistant Utah attorney general Matthew Bates argued that the law was designed to prevent sex with children who are 13 and younger, even if the other person is in the same age group.
He said legislators were sending a message with the law that sex with or among children is unacceptable.
However, Randall Richards, the girl's attorney, claims prosecuting children under a law meant to protect them doesn't make sense.
'A child (victim) cannot also be a perpetrator in the exact same act,' Richards said, according to the Tribune.
The Utah Supreme Court will issue a ruling at a later date.