An Indiana teen’s parents say part of his penalty for having sex with a 14-year-old girl is cruel and inhuman punishment. Along with jail time, his sentence included registering as a sex offender. He will be on the list for 25 years, even though the girl admits to lying about her age; she and her mother both testified that she did not believe he belonged on the registry. His case has raised questions about the registry and the state’s rigid sex crime laws.
It started with the 19-year-old connecting with a girl over the Internet. She said she was 17 when in fact she was just 14. Legally, even though their sexual encounter was consensual, he committed a crime. And, unlike most kids his age, he got caught. The girl’s mother had called the police the night the two hooked up; she thought her daughter was missing.
A few months after the encounter, the teen was arrested and pleaded guilty to fourth degree criminal sexual conduct. Because the crime occurred in Michigan, the court could not take the girl’s lie about her age into account. The judge sentenced him to 90 days in jail and five years probation. He also ordered that the teen register as a sex offender in both Indiana and Michigan, the girl’s home state and the location of the hook-up.
As a registered sex offender, the teen cannot:
- Own a smart phone
- Use the Internet
- Speak with anyone under the age of 17 (aside from immediate family)
- Live, work or loiter within 1,000 feet of a school or playground
- Visit a public park
- Visit an establishment that serves alcohol
He is also subject to an 8:00 p.m. curfew.
What is troubling to critics of the law is that this teen is on the same list as predatory child molesters, rapists, kidnappers and human traffickers. The list is one-size-fits-all, said a retired judge, and as a result is meaningless. There is no evidence that this teen will repeat his crime. The same penalty applies regardless of the risk the offender poses to society.
His parents plan to appeal. If they are successful, his name will be off the registry, but he will have to take additional steps to remove the charges and guilty plea from his criminal record.
ABC News, “19-Year-Old Sex Offender Will Spend 25 Years on Registry,” Juju Chang, Chris James and Lauren Effron, July 31, 2015
CNN, “Teen’s plight: From dating app to sex offender registry,” Kyra Phillips and David Fitzpatrick, Aug. 4, 2015