The tabloid media are filled with reports that the sister of Britney Spears, Jamie Lynn Spears, is pregnant. What is missing from this coverage, however, is the disconnect with statutory rape cases where this pregnancy would be evidence of a criminal — albeit consensual — act. Jamie’s boyfriend, Casey Aldridge, is reportedly 19.
Statutory rape has long been controversial, particularly with the prosecution of teenagers. For additional legal analysis, click here
An analogous case was that of Genarlow Wilson, who was given a ten-year sentence for consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl. An honors student and gifted athlete, Wilson was preparing for college in 2005 when he was charged in Georgia with aggravated child molestation for having consensual oral sex. Though Wilson was only 17, Douglas County District Attorney David McDade and Assistant D.A. Eddie Barker secured a 10-year sentence for an act committed by thousands of teenagers every year.
There are two basic categories of cases. Sex between underage kids and sex between an adult and a child. Both have been prosecuted, though the latter is more common. This obviously turns on state definitions and where this possible offense took place. However, this is not an argument for expanded prosecution between teenagers. To the contrary, the point is that there is a troubling inconsistency in the treatment of these cases.States like Georgia have passed “Romeo and Juliet” laws that exclude teenage lovers — a worthy reform. It is clear that we need to reexamine what were are trying to achieve in these statutory rape laws. When they were first passed, enforcement of morality codes was one of the purposes — even against teenagers. Now, we are primarily interested in the older predator model. Moreover, teens are now having sex at a younger age. The result is that these laws criminalize teen conduct and produce only harmful results — with little effect on a national trend.
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