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Should sexual contact between teenagers result in jail time?

Despite what police and media reports would have us believe, many sex crimes cases are not as black and white as they might seem. While being charged with a sex offense is always a very serious matter, readers in the Milwaukee area likely know that police officers gather evidence specifically with a view toward obtaining a conviction. But the will to convict is not the same thing as having enough evidence to send people to jail and label them sex offenders for the rest of their lives. With these issues in mind, Wisconsin residents may be interested to hear of a case involving a young man who was convicted of a sex offense after it was determined that, as a senior in high school, he had sex with his girlfriend, who was a 14-year-old freshman at the time.

The young man was 18 years old when he was arrested for having sex with a person who was under the legal age of consent. Upon his conviction, he was sentenced to a year in jail and three years' probation.

However, when he was released, the young man and his girlfriend resumed their relationship, which violated his probation. He was arrested again and was sentenced to five to 15 years in jail, even though his girlfriend said she was not a victim.

The young man spent over six years behind bars, and he now has to wear a GPS device for police to monitor him. He says the device sometimes loses its signal and sets off an alarm, making for an embarrassing situation, especially when he is at work.

The young man's plight may raise some difficult questions for Wisconsin residents. For instance, does the law properly treat sex crimes charges that involve two consensual teens? The judge in the case clearly indicated that the law may need to be changed. He said that, when he was in high school, half the boys in his senior class were dating freshman girls, and he suspected that half of those boys would be charged with a sex offense under the current laws.

Wisconsin residents who may be facing a similar situation will want to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can work toward a dismissal or reduction of charges. Not everyone accused of a sex offense deserves to go to jail, just as everyone who is charged with a crime deserves a strong criminal defense.

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

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