Sex Offender Insanity

In a case currently before the Utah Supreme Court, the justices are trying to reconcile a case where a 13 year-old girl has been branded a sex offender:

Utah Supreme Court justices acknowledged Tuesday that they were struggling to wrap their minds around the concept that a 13-year-old Ogden girl could be both an offender and a victim for the same act – in this case, having consensual sex with her 12-year-old boyfriend.

The girl was put in this odd position because she was found guilty of violating a state law that prohibits sex with someone under age 14. She also was the victim in the case against her boyfriend, who was found guilty of the same violation by engaging in sexual activity with her.

“The only thing that comes close to this is dueling,” said Justice Michael Wilkins, noting that two people who take 20 paces and then shoot could each be considered both victim and offender.

And 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.

Yes, that’s right. A 13 year old girl fooled around with her 12 year-old boyfriend and now both of them are being branded as sex offenders and charged with a crime that would a felony if they were adults.

Can this really be what the Utah legislature intended when they passed this law ? The attorney general certainly thinks so:

At Tuesday’s arguments, Matthew Bates, an assistant Utah attorney general, argued the prosecution of the girl was not unreasonable. He said the statute in question is designed to prevent sex with children who are 13 and younger, even if the other person is in the same age group.

By passing that law, legislators were sending a message, Bates said: Sex with or among children is unacceptable.

But can you really say that the law was intended to put 12 and 13 year olds in jail in situations like this ? Mr. Bates may think he’s “protecting the children” by making this argument, what he’s really doing, though, is ruining their lives.

H/T: Hit & Run