How should teenagers be punished for sex crimes?

Parents in Minneapolis-St. Paul know that teenagers are headstrong and sometimes act without thinking about the consequences of their actions. This is especially true when it comes to young love — Minnesota teenagers will have relationships with whomever they please, especially when their parents disapprove. The problem, of course, is that when a teenager is 18-years-old, he or she is considered an adult and if his or her boyfriend of girlfriend is under the age of consent, he or she could face a charge of statutory rape.

Let’s say that an 18-year-old high-school senior is dating a 14-year-old high-school freshman. If he has a consensual sexual relationship with his girlfriend, he might be committing statutory rape because his girlfriend cannot legally consent to the relationship. But, just because these two teenagers decide to have sex, does that mean the 18-year-old should be sent to jail and forced to register as a sex offender? Many parents are saying no.

Parents in Minnesota and in every other state in the country have been pushing legislators to change how teenage sex offenders are punished. These so-called “Romeo and Juliet” laws aim to reduce and completely change the punishments for young adults who have sex with minors. Many of these parent-activists do not condone sexual intercourse with anyone under the age of consent, but they believe that if the age difference between the two parties is fairly minimal, punishments should not be so severe.

One of the common suggestions is that teenagers attend mandatory counseling or are admitted to a treatment center rather they being sent to jail. According to a program director with an international non-profit, juvenile sex offenders only reoffend 4 to 7 percent of the time, much lower than the rate of adult recidivism.

Source: The Daily Beast, “Should Teens Be Jailed for Sex Offenses?” Abigail Pesta, Jan. 25, 2012

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

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