Spears Pregnancy May Result in Television Special Rather than Criminal Charges

Hollywood appears ready to step into the controversy over the pregnancy of Jamie Lynn Spear in a truly signature way: it is ordering a special for television. While a debate rages over why this is being treated as an entertainment rather than criminal issue. Jamie Lynn’s 19-year-old boyfriend, Casey Aldridge, could be charged with statutory rape, carnal knowledge with a minor and even a Mann Act violation.

The statement from Nickelodeon is vintage Hollywood: “We respect Jamie Lynn’s decision to take responsibility in this sensitive and personal situation. We know this is a very difficult time for her and her family, and our primary concern right now is for Jamie Lynn’s well being.” In the meantime, it is working on the possible special. For the full story, click <a href=”Nickelodeon is considering a special for its young audience about sex and love following the news that 16-year-old “Zoey 101” star Jamie Lynn Spears is pregnant.

From a legal rather than entertainment perspective, the central issue is that Aldridge was having sex with a girl who was I15 or 16. At age 15 or 16, the law does not view a young person as having the cognitive or developmental maturity to make decisions of consent. This is the point of statutory rape. While consensual, one party does not have the capacity to consent.

For Aldridge, his relationship with Spears could easily be viewed as a criminal matter. It differs from state to state. Charges can be brought in any state with sexual relations occurred. Yet, the two states with the most relevance are California (where Spears words) and Louisiana (where Spears lives). In California, it is a misdemeanor to have sex with someone younger than 18 if the offender is less than three years older. Someone more than three years older could be charged with a felony. In Louisiana, where Spears lives, it is a misdemeanor for someone age 17 to 19 to have consensual sex with someone age 15 to 17 if the difference between their ages is more than two years.

Louisiana law defines this unlawful carnal knowledge as “sexual intercourse with consent between someone age 19 or older and someone between age 12 and 17.” If aged 15 or 16, the other person involved must be no more than two years older for the act to be considered legal.

In addition to statutory rape, Aldridge could be charged in federal court with a Mann Act violation. Originally calss the The United States White-Slave Traffic Act of 1910 that act prohibits the interstate transport of females for “immoral purposes”. In Athanasaw v. United States (227 U.S. 326, 328) (1913), the Supreme Court extended the law beyond prostitution to include acts of “debauchery.” In Caminetti v. United States (242 U.S. 470, 484-85) (1917), it reaffirmed the broader reading of the law. Famous individuals prosecuted under the act include Chuck Berry, Charlie Chaplin, Jack Johnson, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Charles Manson.

There is also child molestation and other forms of abuse of a minor.

However, statutory rape appears the most obvious. All states have some form of statutory rape laws. A breakdown of the state laws can be found here

Statutory rape and related claims has long been controversial, particularly with the prosecution of teenagers. 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. These laws decriminalize or lessen punishment for sex between two young people while maintaining strict penalties for sex between an adult and a minor.

There have been challenges to these laws, particularly due to their exclusion of same sex relationships. In Kansas v. Limon
for example this distinction was challenged as unconstitutional discrimination under the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Lawrence v. Texas — striking down criminal laws targeting homosexual relations. The law defined the exemption in the following terms: “sodomy . . . with a child who is 14 years of age but less than 16 years of age and the offender is less than 19 years of age and less than four years older than the child and the child and the offender are . . . members of the opposite sex.”

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.

We certainly cannot have a form of celebrity exemption where kids are prosecuted unless they can break their news on Inside Edition or People Magazine. It will be interesting what future prosecutions occur in states like California and Louisiana if Aldridge is not charged. It will be hard to drag another Wilson into court while Spears’ pregnancy is featured on every tabloid cover.

One mother wrote me recently about the different treatment given her son:

My son at 17 had consentual sex with a 14 year old. He was arrested and charged with 3rd degree sexual conduct. We are just past the first year of his probation. I he goes thru all 3 years he will not have to file as a sexual predator. My problem is there were alot of circumstances involved and a lot of people are under the misconception that 18 is the legal age.

For mothers like this one, their children are not just given a criminal record but have to register as sex offenders — often limiting their residential options and ruining chance for employment.

The only special that should come out of this story is one on the status of statutory rape and its criminalization of teen sex.

31 thoughts on “Spears Pregnancy May Result in Television Special Rather than Criminal Charges

  1. In our country the legal age is 16, yet teenagers are pregnant a lot younger, but no-one is charged unless the under 16 files complaints, what will happen if he these teenagers are charged? the baby has a criminal has a father, stressed parents and what happens to other teenagers who dont want their partners to get in trouble they end up single mums, so many young people have children young and a lot end up single but their are a lot that stick together also, it seems a silly charge if two people are in love (or at that age to think they are in love) to be charged over something that seems meant for predators of children and that they are put in the same category of these predators yet they are simply teenagers in a relationship, I was pregnant at 16 with my first child and had another 4 children by the time i was 20, by the time i was 23 i was a single mother with four children, im now 29 with four wonderfull children, a wonderfull partner, and i am studying accounting, im not saying having children young is the right thing to do and yes it is hard and you do have to look after them for the rest of your life, but they also give you so much that you could never imagine, like the first time they smile, or their first day at school the first time they get a job, children are a blessing not a burden, no-one should have children young but if it happens they shouldnt be punished for doing so (if they are in a relationship where they are happy, loved & cared for and that shouldnt matter how old you are) people should be given the choice on who they go out with & why is it ok for two 14 yr olds to have sex and get pregnant but not ok for a 16 yr old and a 18 yr old, shouldn’t the government be looking at ways to educate teens on safe sex rather than making criminals of teenagers that believe they are in love and have their whole lives ahead of them

  2. I believe that nothing will happen to Jamie-lynn or her boyfriend because as a celebrity as her sister being an international star she is untouchable and so is he unless she claimed rape.
    Her sister an dmany other celebs have been caught drunk and with drugs, if they were ordainary people they would have been prosecuted, but it is quite clear in a democratic society, the rich and famous are above the law.
    With regards to her pregnancy, the american laws on sex seem a bit outdated. In England where i live, the age of consent is 16, but thousands or girls have sex under that age, statuary rape only occurs if someone is under the age of thirteen, between the ages of 13 and 16, noone can be prosecuted if it was consensual.
    It is the same with gays and lesbians, the age of consent is still 16.
    i seriously think american law needs to reconsider the age of consent, by the age of 16, teenagers are fully developed biologically, clearly indicated by Jamie-lynn’s pregnancy and perhaps if it was lowered to 16, less teenagers would be prosecuted for perrforming a simple biological function.

  3. Amin to Toni…Bob you are an ignorant idiot… and to everyone who refered to Casey as a celebraty, that may come as a surprise to all of you but he is not one. Jamie Lyn is. And we only know about HER pregnancy BECAUSE she is famous and she is on a Nick show and because she didn’t just claim “illness” and went into hiding untill the baby was born . If any one of you can honestly say they’ve never heard of another teen girl falling pregnant to an older (and presumably wiser) guy, I’ll say you are either living in your own dream world or you are simply a bunch of Hypocrites. Bob, there’s a newsflash for you…Britney and Jamie Lyn DO NOT wrtie or edit the news, and if you wanna watch OTHER news then maybe you should just change the channel… The Mann Act, a stat rape…chill out people…you talk as if she is the first one to get pregnant at that age…There are recorded cases of 13year-old pregnant girls…so, maybe if you give it a rest it won’t be such a big deal… I’m far from being OK with school children having any kind of sexual activity but I prefer to not pretend that it’s not happening…and the fact that J.L. is now pregnant is frankly only her and Casey’s problem…maybe you should leave it be that way… As for the case of the 17year-old boy sentanced to 10 years prison time…sorry but I fail to see the point in that… it sounds like a witch hunt to me, proving a point and ruining the boy’s live in the process…really wise!!!!! Congats to the D.A and the A.D.A. involved…they deserve a medal of honnor (I hope the sarcasm wasn’t too subtle to not be noted)
    Why are you so blood-thirsty anyway…IT IS NONE OF YOUR BUSSINESS that JL is pregnant and how old is the father…
    I’m sorry to break the news but the only people who should be the role-models of your children are you – their parents, and not a 16 year-old girl. When a school-girl tells mommy that her best friend gave her an “advise” Mommy says that her best friend is not fit to give advise because she is, after all, not any wiser that the school girl in question…but when it comes to role-models it’s quite OK when the role-model in question IS, in fact, the very old and wise age of 16…if this seems to be the way your mentality seems to operate then you need to take a deep look at yourselves, becuase, as far as I’m concerned there’s a HUGE flow in that theory.
    And, Bob, an advise to you…if you want REAL news and not only SPEARS news you probably should complain to the broadcasting company which news editions you watch and not be angry with JL and Britney…I highly doubt that they’ve ever done anything to you…
    For everyone who got lost in the whole pep talk, there’s THE MORAL in it: CASEY WON’T BE CHARGED WITH ANYTHING BECAUSE HE HAS NOT COMMITED ANY CRIME. HE IS BARELY 2 YEARS OLDER THAN J.L. SO GIVE IT A REST.GO BACK TO YOUR OWN EXISTANCE(S)AND LET THEM LIVE THEIR LIVES. SENDING SOMEONE BEHIND BARS WOULDN’T SERVE ANYONE ANY GOOD UNLESS THE ALLEGED OFFENDER HAS ACTUALLY COMMITED A CRIME.
    THERE’S NO CRIME HERE, HENCE NO OFFENDER.FULL STOP.

  4. I feel it is admirable for him to want to be there for her and want to be a father for his child the law is messed up. It would be different if they did not have a relationship at the time and if this act was completely random, but the fact of the matter is her family excepted him as her boyfriend and most likely knew sexual acts were occurring, being a teenager in this day and age, it is hard to remain abstinant. When I was 16 I was sexually with a man who was 21 it was my first time being active, but now that man is my fiance and I am now 21, I know at 16 I was able to make those decisions for my self and so can Jamie lynn, I feel that she and her boyfriend will be fine parents and should be left alone while going through these next few months as a teen she does have some adjusting to do so let her learn her way and leave these poor kids alone.

  5. […] The “donors” included a 24-year-old homeless man, click here. This raises the question of possible statutory rape charges. Statutory rape has long been controversial, particularly in cases of concealment by the girls. In one case, a girl succeeded in getting two men sent to jail, click here, despite a pattern of concealment. Most laws do not have a defense for such cases and there is a very disturbing inconsistency in when these laws are enforced — as in the case of Jamie Lynn Spear, click here. […]

  6. the Vatican issued an apology for past sins committed by church members. It is titled “Memory and reconciliation: The church and faults of the past.” It was approved by Pope John Paul II, and was written by Cardinal Ratzinger, John Paul II’s successor as pope.
    Many leaders of the Vatican Curia opposed his action, being concerned that a confession of past errors might cause many Roman Catholics to wonder whether the church is currently engaged in sinful behavior that will require some future pope to apologize for present-day sins. However, John Paul believed that repentance would transform the church and enable it to lead the world into a “new springtime of Christianity.” He was able to overrule the Vatican Curia.
    In relation to heavy propoganda from all magazines in USA and CANADA for teen pregnancy of JLSpears….
    ARE YOUR MAGAZINE IS SAYING THAT EVERY GIRL SHOULD BE A PROSTITUTE AND RAPED FROM THE AGE OF 16 OR SHOULD START UNDERAGE DRINKING AND SEX. WHAT KIND OF BEHAVIOUR IS MAGAZINE MARKETING.
    TODAY POPE IN THE NAME OF CATHOLIC CHURCH IS APOLOGIZING
    IN SYDNEY AUSTRALIA FOR CHILD ABUSE AND UNDERAGE SEXLIFE
    AND PROSTITUTION OF CHILDREN FROM THE AGE OF 14 AND AFTER…
    IN THE MOST STATES IN USA AND CANADA UNDERAGE SEX AND PROSTITUTION IS ILLEGAL AND IT IS CALLED STATUTORY RAPE..
    OH MY GOD THEY ARE NOT AN ADULT TOO ..
    PEOPLE LESS THAN 21 ARE NOT ADULT AND THEREFORE THEY CAN NOT MAKE APPROPRIATE DECISIONS.

  7. The older predator model is stupid, kids can hurt each other, I don’t see why the impact of those experiences are minimized and the ones with an age difference are embellished.

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