Teen Sex Offenders: Does the Time Fit the Crime?

43 comments
January 25, 2012 ‐ By

A freshman girl dating a senior guy is a common scenario in high school. For some, the story ends with popularity, a high school sweetheart, maybe even heartbreak, but for others there is shame, stigma, and maybe even a charge of statutory rape.

The Daily Beast reports that there are a growing number of parents across all 50 states who are fighting to protect their children from the sex-offender laws that were meant to do just that. From their view, the punishments inflicted on high-school boys are far too harsh and they want the laws to change.

One mother, Francie Baldino, says her son Ken’s prison term was unthinkable. In 2004, the 18-year-old high school senior was arrested for having sex with his girlfriend who was a 14-year-old freshman. Because the age of consent in Michigan is 16, he was sentenced to a year in jail and three years’ probation. When Ken was released from jail he violated probation by resuming his relationship with the girl and then was given a sentence of five to fifteen years. After serving six years behind bars, he’s now forced to wear a GPS device and was told his home address and personal information would be listed in the sex-offender registry for 25 years.

When a guy is in his 20s and a girl is 14, the issue of sex with a minor is a no-brainer, but when we’re talking two high-school students, one of whom may have just become a legal adult, the issue is much more gray. Even Fred Mester, the judge in Ken’s case openly acknowledged the complexities of statutory rape laws when he sentenced him in 2005, saying, “Half my senior class … were dating freshman girls, and I suspect half of them would be in here today.”

While the prevalence of the act doesn’t mean it should be excused, it does call into question whether the law should recognize the difference between teen sex and teen rape. As Ken’s attorney, Cheryl Carpenter says, “The laws often don’t differentiate between a 50-year-old man molesting a 14-year-old girl, and two teenagers having sex.”

But how could that be done? Often times girls who sleep with older boys say the sex was consensual, but in an age where so many teen girls are admitting to being coerced into having sex or performing certain sexual acts, it’s hard to know whether they are telling the truth or protecting boys they are scared of. And as prosecutors argue, the law is there so there’s no need to delve into this issue of distinction at all. They say the law is the law and kids need to follow it regardless of whatever urges or relationships they have.

“The court isn’t imposing restrictions because it’s fun—it’s the law,” Paul Walton, a chief assistant prosecutor in Michigan, says. “You can disagree on the age of consent, but the law says that prior to that age, a person doesn’t have the ability to consent.”

Although following the law truly is the bottom line in these cases and the aim isn’t to encourage teen sex—although that behavior isn’t going anywhere—unfair laws are protested all the time.  With boys like Ken, who has now been taken off the sex-offender registry but remains a convicted felon for life, you have to wonder if their futures are being thrown away before they even get started with these harsh penalties.

Do you think sex-offender laws are too harsh when it comes to teens? Should legislators work to modify the laws or should they stand as they are to protect young girls?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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  • wakeup.com

    How is it that dangerous adult pedophiles who go around raping little children often get less harsh sentences? It makes no sense. A senior who dates a consenting freshman does not pose a threat to society and should not be prosecuted. There is a case in Florida right now. The 18 year old GIRL is being prosecuted, so it is not true that only boys are prosecuted.

  • Ajohn

    If this is an issue, why aren’t the schools participating in working against freshman/senior relationships? Why are they allowing with no rules that anyone can ask or be assked to prom? It is our faults for putting our hormonally fueled children all into one building.

  • http://www.askthejudge.info NJinFlag

    I suspect the vast majority of juvenile sex offender laws are being applied to those involved in other types of sexual misconduct and not statutory rape cases. Although cases like Ken’s certainly occur from time to time, they are not that common even though there are plenty of teenage sexual relationships going on in every high school. But it takes a parent to find out about the relationship and then make a complaint to the police for anything to happen in court. There’s also the issue of sexting in which states that don’t have laws specifically drafted to address sexting amongst teens are prosecuting some teens under child porn/exploitation laws. Under these laws, the teens face having to register as a sex offender. One kid prosecuted under such a law is required to be on the sex offender registry for 25 years for forwarding sexted photos of his girlfriend to others after they broke up. http://www.askthejudge.info/can-you-get-in-trouble-for-sexting/232/

  • http://www.askthejudge.info NJinFlag

    I suspect the vast majority of juvenile sex offender laws are being applied to those involved in other types of sexual misconduct and not statutory rape cases. Although cases like Ken’s certainly occur from time to time, they are not that common even though there are plenty of teenage sexual relationships going on in every high school. But it takes a parent to find out about the relationship and then make a complaint to the police for anything to happen in court. There’s also the issue of sexting in which states that don’t have laws specifically drafted to address sexting amongst teens are prosecuting some teens under child porn/exploitation laws. Under these laws, the teens face having to register as a sex offender. One kid prosecuted under such a law is required to be on the sex offender registry for 25 years for forwarding sexted photos of his girlfriend to others after they broke up. http://www.askthejudge.info/can-you-get-in-trouble-for-sexting/232/

  • Candacey Doris

    The laws need to be changed. Statutory rape charges against a high school kid can ruin his life. Save the jail terms for actual rapists that aren’t getting consent.

  • Gemini

    My issue is that an 18 year old high school is still a child as well. I do not believe that two consenting teenagers should result in one going to jail because the parents don’t like the idea of them having sex. If actual rape is proven by all means go to jail. No kids do not make good choices but it should not prevent them from making better ones later in life.

  • Pivyque

    I think the law should stay the same. 18 and 14? Really? He is about to go to college and she is fresh out of middle school. I think the laws are there to protect and the parents need to support it. Many older teens take advantage of the younger ones. They need to encourage their kids to date someone their own age. 

  • Neffidub1980

    the law is what it is this is, this is a lesson for anybody who is thinking about having sex with someone under age.

  • devildog808

    I am growing wary of the black community and its growing lack of regard for young black kids especially little girls. 14-years-old is a child. His or her mindset is that of a child. I don’t care what they’ve seen on cable or heard in a rap song, they are not ready for that type of activity. If you are 18 or older and have any sexual contact with a 14-yr-old, you should go to jail! End of discussion!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705559294 Patrina King

    What we should pay attention to is that the “18 year old” is indeed considered an adult by law, but if he is still in High School, his mind is more connected with his peers more than the everyday working adult. I operate a criminal background investigations company and this sort of thing comes up all the time and it does bother me. I also think saying kids of certain ages can’t consent is preposterous. The intangible law is the only thing that says kids can’t consent. How do we explain girls consenting to get married and have kids at young ages years ago?

  • Lexus409

    I believe the law should stay the same and it should be up to the parents to teach our kids the reprecussions of breaking the law juust like we teach them about STDs. As adults, we are to easy on our kids when it comes down to sex. We don’t teach all the emotional ends and outs and because of it we are losing our youth to teen pregnancy, STDs, and prison. Sex is not a game and should not be looked upon as just another fun act. There is some sort of responsiblity that comes with it. Maybe if we teach our children about the law then maybe some of them will think twice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/author.tl.james Tl James

    a 14 yr cannot consent… REGARDLESS OF GENDER!

    • devildog808

      OMG thank you! I thought it was just me! A child is a child and the black community is sliding down a slippery slope when they want to regard little kids as adults. No matter what they’ve been talked into (it’s easy to lie and manipulate them at that age) they are still just kids!

  • Inessa

    I will say it depends on the sex of the offender ! A girl who is 18 with a boy who is 14 is not a problem

    • The Yaz

      Why not? Wait–you’re joking, right? Yeah, your  MUST BE. So, I won’t honor the silliness of the comment, especially because I was in the very same predicament. My heart was broken, but my buddies were envious and congratulatory.
      What no one seems to acknowledge is the role of THE PARENTS. The term, ‘Jail Bait’ has been in vogue for generations. Every teenager is familiar with the laws surrounding the topic. If an 18+ year-old is any kind of responsible adult, s/he will get PERMISSION from the parents before breaking the law. Actually, there probably ought to be lawyers present as well. A legal document would be drafted, then signed by all parties concerned……….

    • devildog808

      Girls have been charged with statutory rape as well! .I don’t understand the level of confusion here the law has not changed so why haven’t ppl grown wiser. Thou cannot kill… thou also cannot have sexual relations with minors under the age of 18!

  • Mocha_687

    Statutory rape should take age difference into account. Say the age of consent is 17, does that mean a 16 and 18 year old couldn’t possibly have consensual sex? If that’s the case, there are a ton of rapists in our country.

  • NicciNic

    The laws need to stay how they are! Swear this is ridiculous. And it’s not just protecting young girls it protects the boys too! There was a situation in MS like this but reversed and the girl purposely got pregnant by the dude and was 18 trying to take a 14 year old to court for child support because she wanted a baby. At 14 15 yrs old kids are still learning the dynamics of a relationship and are mentally and emotionally more unstable than someone 17 or 18( not saying they aren’t still emotionally and mentally unstable because a lot still are in their early 20s). They still need time to grow smh

    • F3ral Anarchy

      yes they still need to grow but at the same time face facts.  kids are going to engage in sexual activity.  ruining a child future over what was technically consensual sex between 2 kids is silly. . what is there for that child to learn behind bars 5-10 years?  so you have 2 kids who are underage having sex and no law is being broken.  as soon as 1 of them turns 18 they should go to jail?

      • NicciNic

        He was already 18. And so are a lot of them that knowingly mess around with younger kids. They know they are 18 or about to turn 18 and they know it’s against the law. At 18 you know better. You know that you can go to jail for statutory. At 17 you know you can go to jail for statutory. The law needs to stay how it is. These people are not that stupid to not know they can get locked up for statutory

      • mscoco04

        kids are only engaging in sexual activities because they “think” it’s okay…let’s teach them that it is a good thing but that it should be reserved for a more mature adult that’s ready to handle the responsibility of it…why not just give all the little kids guns too because they think it’s cool or better yet, allow them to kill at will or, …..wait, they do that already too….just because they CAN doesn’t mean they SHOULD!!!….education starts at home and with morals…I think the laws should stay the same. Children need to learn to obey them

      • http://www.facebook.com/nickeyaebony Nickeya EbOny

        uh…. where exactly do you think these kids are having this “consensual” sex? I ask because where is the parenting when these children are having sex. Yes facts and statistics are proving that kids are having sex as early as eleven but there are rules.  Now maybe his family members failed to inform him but at eighteen you are old enough to know right from wrong.  I personally think that instead of accepting stats for what they are, this is a harsh but perfect example of what can and will happen if this action is taken. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/nickeyaebony Nickeya EbOny

      I completely agree with you.  Something like this could have been prevented. I know because I have a younger brother who is a star athlete in high school so I’m familiar with the type of activities that come along with the territory and all while it is cool to be popular he learned rather quickly when he turned eighteen what the rules were.  I explained to him that the law isn’t going to change if you get caught with a girl younger than you. Period! If jail isn’t in his plans from the beginning there isn’t any girl in this world that would put him there.

      • NicciNic

        Exactly. When my baby brother hit high school I’m going to have to let him know the same thing….and warn him bout them females going after younger dudes cause they know younger dudes are naive enough to get them preggo

      • NicciNic

        Exactly. When my baby brother hit high school I’m going to have to let him know the same thing….and warn him bout them females going after younger dudes cause they know younger dudes are naive enough to get them preggo

  • Henewaa

    I’m sorry but if that girl got him into jail ONCE he should have stayed away. The 2nd time was his own fault. But yeah I think the laws for RAPE and teen sex should be different from one another. Being coerced into sex and physically forced are two different things in MY opinion.

  • Henewaa

    I’m sorry but if that girl got him into jail ONCE he should have stayed away. The 2nd time was his own fault. But yeah I think the laws for RAPE and teen sex should be different from one another. Being coerced into sex and physically forced are two different things in MY opinion.

  • Henewaa

    I’m sorry but if that girl got him into jail ONCE he should have stayed away. The 2nd time was his own fault. But yeah I think the laws for RAPE and teen sex should be different from one another. Being coerced into sex and physically forced are two different things in MY opinion.

    • W Lakeshia

      Not true what if the two had a kids like myself and my sin father did? He was 17 i was 14 and are son had cerebral palsy. So how do you stay away? And his registered online as a rapes but we been together 10+ years and we having are 2 baby this year. So what u think now?

      • StarFruit

        Well, I think you should learn proper grammar. WTFreak are you talking about? I’m confused!

      • Starfruit

        Well, I think you should learn proper grammar. WTFreak are you talking about? I’m confused!

  • F3ral Anarchy

    this type of thing goes on in every highschool in america.  they need to rethink how this law is written.  this poor guy is doing all these years when all he did was sleep consensually with his girlfriend.

    • devildog808

      IMO!!

    • devildog808

      No the law should apply to all equally! If a an 18-yr-old female is sleeping with a 14-yr-old male or female she should also do time. There is absolutely no excuse of an 18-yr-old to have any form of sexual relations with a 14-yr-old, period. I just don’t understand the confusion ppl are having? He should have known better. Weren’t their girls his own age? The only time I would question the law is if they were both seniors and his or her birthday (females have also been charged with statutory rape) happen to come before the other. A H.S. Senior 17- newly 18-yr-old relationship is vastly different from that of a 14 and 18. That is simply to much of an age difference for it to be truly consensual IMO!!

      • Akosua123

        Why are 14year olds having sex IN THE FIRST PLACE!

      • tastythoughts

        i hear where you are coming from but the truth of the matter is that in highschool your going to have seniors dating freshman and vice versa..because its highschool….i dont think the law takes into consideration that teenage ends at 19….maybe the age of legality is the issue. but realistically two highschool students dating is not out of the question. its almost like…the couple needs to break up in order to not go to jail…i think about our parents and their age differences…many of our parents (mostly fathers are at least 5-6 years older then our mothers)…..i think in the end its about the spirit of the law and not the letter that should be taken into consideration. 

        • Lexus409

          Yes I do think that realistically a freshman can and will DATE a senior, and I don’t see a problem with dating, however they do not have to have sex. That is where the problem lies. We keep entangling dating with sex. They are not one in the same and should not be expected when dating.

          • tastythoughts

            your still being unrealistic…the issue of teen sex is nothing new. sex is linked to dating..period. its the same approach that barb bush had with DARE…just say no to drugs….it doesn’t work. the truth is kids are going to have sex no matter how much we try to think they shouldn’t..whether they are dating or not…not all but a good percentage will….the law should be tweaked to protect this very sensitive issue. because your personal belief is that dating and sex cant or shouldn’t be incorporated does not mean that its everyone elses…laws are supposed to be as fair and equal to everyone as possible…its up to u as a parent to teach your child about sex and dating and then hope that the value you have instilled in them they hold true. in the meantime..its unfair that this young man is now labeled a sex offender. 

      • tastythoughts

        i hear where you are coming from but the truth of the matter is that in highschool your going to have seniors dating freshman and vice versa..because its highschool….i dont think the law takes into consideration that teenage ends at 19….maybe the age of legality is the issue. but realistically two highschool students dating is not out of the question. its almost like…the couple needs to break up in order to not go to jail…i think about our parents and their age differences…many of our parents (mostly fathers are at least 5-6 years older then our mothers)…..i think in the end its about the spirit of the law and not the letter that should be taken into consideration. 

      • tastythoughts

        i hear where you are coming from but the truth of the matter is that in highschool your going to have seniors dating freshman and vice versa..because its highschool….i dont think the law takes into consideration that teenage ends at 19….maybe the age of legality is the issue. but realistically two highschool students dating is not out of the question. its almost like…the couple needs to break up in order to not go to jail…i think about our parents and their age differences…many of our parents (mostly fathers are at least 5-6 years older then our mothers)…..i think in the end its about the spirit of the law and not the letter that should be taken into consideration. 

      • tastythoughts

        i hear where you are coming from but the truth of the matter is that in highschool your going to have seniors dating freshman and vice versa..because its highschool….i dont think the law takes into consideration that teenage ends at 19….maybe the age of legality is the issue. but realistically two highschool students dating is not out of the question. its almost like…the couple needs to break up in order to not go to jail…i think about our parents and their age differences…many of our parents (mostly fathers are at least 5-6 years older then our mothers)…..i think in the end its about the spirit of the law and not the letter that should be taken into consideration. 

      • tastythoughts

        i hear where you are coming from but the truth of the matter is that in highschool your going to have seniors dating freshman and vice versa..because its highschool….i dont think the law takes into consideration that teenage ends at 19….maybe the age of legality is the issue. but realistically two highschool students dating is not out of the question. its almost like…the couple needs to break up in order to not go to jail…i think about our parents and their age differences…many of our parents (mostly fathers are at least 5-6 years older then our mothers)…..i think in the end its about the spirit of the law and not the letter that should be taken into consideration. 

      • tastythoughts

        i hear where you are coming from but the truth of the matter is that in highschool your going to have seniors dating freshman and vice versa..because its highschool….i dont think the law takes into consideration that teenage ends at 19….maybe the age of legality is the issue. but realistically two highschool students dating is not out of the question. its almost like…the couple needs to break up in order to not go to jail…i think about our parents and their age differences…many of our parents (mostly fathers are at least 5-6 years older then our mothers)…..i think in the end its about the spirit of the law and not the letter that should be taken into consideration.