For a more in-depth look at the topic of teens placed on America’s sex offense registries, you may also want to check out the following:
- 2013 Human Rights Watch Report, “Raised on the Registry: The Irreparable Harm of Placing Children on Sex Offender Registries in the US”
- 2020 Juvenile Justice Center report, “LABELED FOR LIFE: A Review of Youth Sex Offender Registration Laws.”
- National Juvenile Justice Network article “Raising the Minimum Age for Prosecuting Children.” (Updated January 2022)
The Criminalization of Teen Sex
Derek W. Logue of OnceFallen.com
29 August 2008, Update 2 September 2021
“My opinion is this is the best thing that could’ve happened to the kid…It is not vague to say, ‘If you do this kind of activity, we don’t care what age you are, you are liable for prosecution.'” — [Zusha Elinson (Oct. 7, 2013). Federal Youth Case on Trial: Prosecution of 10-Year-Old on Sex Charges Stokes Debate Over Juvenile Justice. WSJ]
In Iowa, a sixteen-year-old boy meets another teen and they date and have sex; turns out the girl was only 13, and the teen finds himself on a sex offender registry . In Oregon, two thirteen year old boys faced 10 years and life on the sex offender registry for participating in “slap butt day,” a common form of horseplay at the school; the district had prosecuted other children for sexual harassment in similar cases . In Florida, two teens were convicted of child porn for taking racy pictures of themselves . The Utah Supreme Court recently ruled on a case in which a 13 year old girl was charged as both victim of a sex crime and a perpetrator for having consensual sex with her 12-year-old boyfriend .
These cases are merely the tip of the iceburg in a society obsessed with punishing sex offenders. The criminalization of teenage sexual behavior has become a disturbing trend in our predator panicked society. We are simultaneously obsessed with sex and horrified by sex; our laws reflect this panic. For example, we allow 12-year-olds to obtain birth control and abortions, but they cannot consent to sex . Criminalizing teen sex is part of the “look tough on crime” stance which is popular in today’s society, yet few people are educating the public about the real possibility of teens landing on sex offender registries for irresponsible sexual behavior . Legislators in Georgia failed to pass a bill mandating schools teach the legal consequences of teen sex, though it later passed a “watered-down” version of the bill . This mentality has led to disastrous consequences, destroying the lives of many teenagers by placing them on sex offender registries for life!
The possibility of teens landing on the registry is very real, as teens are having sex without knowledge of the consequences. The Center for Disease Control found in one biannual survey of ninth to twelfth graders that 45.3% of teen girls and 48% of teen boys have had sex. Furthermore, 4.2% of females and 10.4% of males had sex before age 13, and 11.2% of females and 17.5% of males had four or more sex partners . A 2002 National Survey of Family Growth found that of the teens age 15 to 19 who have never had sexual intercourse, 24% of males and 22% of females engaged in oral sex . In short, more than half of teens have experienced sexual contact of some kind. This does not even include actions such as taking naughty photos, butt slapping, or even some innocent actions misinterpreted as sexually motivated conduct.
If you think your child is immune, think again. Children as young as pre-school students have faced severe penalties for “inappropriate sexual behaviors.” The Virginia Department of Education reported in 2007, 255 elementary students were suspended for offensive sexual touching; the Maryland Department of Education reported 166 elementary students were suspended for sexual harassment. These suspensions add a permanent mark on the child’s school records . The AP recently noted from 1993 to 2004, adult sex crimes decreased by 56% but juvenile crimes increased 40% by the same period . However, what percentage of these cases involves forcible rape or child molestation as opposed to consensual sexual activity with peers?
In our quest to prevent sexual violence, we are willing to place marks of infamy on children as young as four in the name of public safety, proclaiming the ironic mantra, “If it saves just one child, then the law is worth it.” Tell me, are we willing to destroy the lives of many children to save “just one child?”
- Susan Goldsmith. “Unruly schoolboys or sex offenders?” The Oregonian, July 2, 2007.
- Declan McCullagh. “Police blotter: Teens prosecuted for racy photos.” CNET News, Feb. 9, 2007. http://news.cnet.com/Police-blotter-Teens-prosecuted-for-racy-photos/2100-1030_3-6157857.html?tag=newsmap
- Pamela Mason. “Girl, 13, charged as sex offender and victim.” Salt Lake Tribune, Dec. 26, 2006, http://www.denverpost.com/ci_4783650
- Niki Delson. “Age of Consent – Criminalizing Teen Sex.” American Chronicle, May 31, 2007. http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/28524
- Shannon McCaffrey. “Many teens don’t know the law about sex.” USA Today, Oct. 29, 2007. http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-10-29-306192904_x.htm
- Shannon McCaffrey. “Critics say teens need education on sex laws.” Savannah Morning News, Aug. 18, 2007, http://savannahnow.com/node/345973
- Center for Disease Control. “Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System.” 2003, http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/SS/SS5302.pdf
- “Oral sex.” Child Trends Data Bank, 2003, http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org/indicators/95OralSex.cfm
- Brigid Schuldte. “For Little Children, Grown-up Labels as Sexual Harassers.” Washington Post, April 3, 2008. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/04/02/ST2008040203589.html?hpid=topnews
- John “Jack” Tefler. “Obsession With Sex, Violence Impacting Our Kids.” Midland Daily News, July 1, 2007
http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/story?id=5373858&page=1 – Georgia, 17 year old girl on registry for oral sex with 15 year old
http://womensissues.about.com/od/datingandsex/a/Romeo_and_Julie.htm — Teen Sex laws, gay bias, and motivated by angry parents
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10972703 – The Genarlow Wilson case
www.kxan.com/dpp/news/crime/Texas_teenage_sex_laws_under_fire — Texas Justice; American citizen born in Mexico facing deportation for consensual sex with another teen
http://www.abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/story?id=6029237&page=1 : Here is a news report regarding teens who send nude pictures of themselves to their dates being arrested for dissemination of “child porn”
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?es=9B04E1DA1531F935A25755C0A9679C8B63 – “Prosecutors and public
defenders estimate that 10 percent to 25 percent of the [New Jersey] offenders are under 18, with many fewer under 14
and only a handful as young as 10.”
STUDY OF TEENS AND “SEXTING” Dec. 2008
http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/sextech/PDF/SexTech_Summary.pdf — Survey of Teens and Sexting released by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy and Cosmo Girl Magazine. A few of the Key Findings:
How many teens say they have sent/posted nude or seminude pictures or video of themselves?
– 20% of teens overall
– 22% of teen girls
– 18% of teen boys
– 11% of young teen girls (ages 13-16)
How many teens are sending or posting sexually suggestive messages?
– 39% of all teens
– 37% of teen girls
– 40% of teen boys
– 48% of teens say they have received such messages
Although most teens and young adults who send sexually suggestive content are sending it to boyfriends / girlfriends, others say they are sending such material to those they want to hook up with or to someone they only know online.
Who are these sexually suggestive messages and images being sent to?
– 71% of teen girls and 67% of teen guys who have sent or posted sexually suggestive content say they have sent/posted this content to a boyfriend/girlfriend.
– 21% of teen girls and 39% of teen boys say they have sent such content to someone they wanted to date or hook up with.
– 15% of teens who have sent or posted nude/seminude images of themselves say they have done so to someone they only knew online.
– 83% of young adult women and 75% of young adult men who have sent sexually suggestive content say they have sent/posted such material to a boyfriend/ girlfriend.
– 21% of young adult women and 30% of young adult men who have sent/posted sexually suggestive content have done so to someone they wanted to date or hook up with.
– 15% of young adult women and 23% of young adult men who have sent sexually suggestive material say they have done so to someone they only knew online.
The Adam Walsh Act allows people as young as 14 on the National Sex Offender Registry; however, the Act creates a “Romeo and Juliet” clause which excludes teens from the registry for consensual sexual acts with individuals within 4 years of age of themselves. Not coincidently, states that have passed the Walsh Act have failed to implement this aspect of the law.
DALLAS MORNING NEWS LIST OF OVER 4,000 TEXAS REGISTRANTS PLACED ON THE REGISTRY AS JUVENILES, SOME AS YOUNG AS AGE 10!
ADDENDUM March 18, 2010
First US Court case to strike down prosecution threats over sexting laws. More specifically, the court ruled it is the discretion of the parents, not the courts, to educate teens involved in sexting incidents, and prosecutors cannot force sexting teens to take education classes under pain of felony charges. Miller v. Mitchell, No. 09-2144 [3rd Cir. 2010] http://www.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/092144p.pdf
ADDENDUM 9/14/22: “18-Year-Old Faces Possible 70 Years in Federal Prison for Snapchat Sexting Crime”
When Beyer was 17, he made a fake account on Snapchat and started contacting girls about his same age. He was in high school at the time. The FBI became aware of his activity in June of 2021, probably because one of the girl’s parents found out what he was doing and brought her phone to the authorities. But the FBI waited until September, a month after Beyer turned 18, to act.
Then, at about 4:30 a.m., a SWAT team raided the house where Beyer lived with his dad and brother, and handcuffed all three, according to his mother, who is divorced and lives in Pennsylvania. Then they put Beyer in the cruiser for questioning. He was read his Miranda rights and responded, “I understand.”
When questioned, Beyer said that yes, the Snapchat account was his, and no, he wasn’t sharing it with anyone. He asked if his father could be there with him, but the agents said he was old enough to be alone. Then they told him, “We need your password.” Unaware that he could refuse, Beyer gave it to them, whereupon they opened his account and put him under arrest, according to his mother.
Beyer has been in jail awaiting trial ever since. His family could not afford the $5,000 it would take to bail him out, and by the time they got the money together, it was too close to his trial date—which has been moved several times—to release him.
How is it that photos exchanged—or even extorted—by teens who all reside in Kansas can be considered an interstate crime? Simple: Snapchat’s server is in California. The images electronically left Kansas, crossed state lines, and came right back.
Nonetheless, the authorities had a choice: They could have brought district charges against him, or federal ones…
Kansas City-based criminal defense attorney Chris Angles says the federal statute can result in extremely heavy consequences, regardless of offender age.
“These crimes are unfortunately increasingly common among teens,” says Angles. “State laws, unlike federal ones, are crafted to address age and other mitigating factors. Applying the federal law in this case, with the facts as we understand them, seems overly punitive.”
In fact, the attorney continued, under Kansas law, there aren’t even mandatory minimums.
Source: Emily Horowitz. “18-Year-Old Faces Possible 70 Years in Federal Prison for Snapchat Sexting Crime.” Reason.com. 14 Sept. 2022. Accessed 17 Sept 2022 at https://reason.com/2022/09/14/kansas-sexting-crime-teenagers-snapchat-children/)
Round Table Discussion of a 10 year old kid on the public sex offender registry. Perhaps the most disturbin part of the video is the clapping of the audience in approval of environmental attorney Erin Brockovich, who was defending the prosecutor who prosecuted the 10 year old.