Due to age of consent laws, children need legal counsel before engaging in sexual behavior or photographing themselves. And of course, they have to check their partner’s ID to make sure they don’t lie about her age, and verify the local law while vacationing in other countries.
Here is another absurd example:
Chief Justice Christine Durham wondered if the state Legislature had intended the “peculiar consequence” that a child would have the simultaneous status of a protected person and an alleged perpetrator under the law.
The comments came in oral arguments on a motion asking the high court to overturn the finding of delinquency – the legal term in juvenile court for a conviction – against Z.C., who became pregnant after she and her boyfriend engaged in sex in October 2003.
State authorities filed delinquency petitions in July 2004, alleging that each had committed sexual abuse of a child, a second-degree felony if committed by an adult.
The girl appealed the petition, saying her constitutional right to be treated equally under the law had been violated.
Her motion noted that for juveniles who are 16 and 17, having sex with others in their own age group does not qualify as a crime.
Juveniles who are 14 or 15 and have sex with peers can be charged with unlawful conduct with a minor, but the law provides for mitigation when the age difference is less than four years, making the offense a misdemeanor.
For adolescents under 14, though, there are no exceptions or mitigation and they are never considered capable of consenting to sex.
Surprisingly, the Utah Supreme Court showed some signs of sanity. In this narrowly defined case, the girl escaped serious punishment. Still, legal cost and years of court wrangling are pretty strong punishment already. And underage sex still remains a mine field that even a seasoned lawyer has a hard time to traverse. For example, I remember the case of a boy in Brazil that was arrested on his 18th birthday, for having sex with his long term 17 year old girlfriend. While he was underage, it was legal.
No amount of judicial lenity to compensate for the absurd application of the law changes the fact that the application of the law was absurd to begin with. Moreover, labeling Z.C. with the moniker of “child abuser,” even within the juvenile court system, can have serious consequences that were not intended by the legislature.
A delinquency adjudication for sexual abuse of a child can lead to sentencing enhancements for any offenses Z.C. might commit while she is a juvenile or even as an adult if her juvenile record is not expunged. Such an adjudication also has the potential to affect any civil proceedings related to the custody of her child or any future attempts to seek child support from the father.
We therefore vacate Z.C.’s adjudication. We stress, however, that our holding is narrowly confined to the application of [State] Code section 76-5-404.1 in situations where no true victim or perpetrator can be identified.
In my opinion these laws should be abolished completely, as science indicates there is no need to protect adolescents from consenual sex even with adults, much less protect them of sex with their peers.
Unless, of course, one is worried about Teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, etc. But there are no mandatory 5-10 year prison sentences for teenage pregnancy, so this does not seem to be the main concern of these laws.