The fact that Jamie Lee Spears became pregnant as a minor is generally treated as an entertainment story rather than a case of child molestation for her adult boyfriend. However, even minors are now being subject to registration as sexual predators for fondling and other sexual acts with other minors under a federal law passed with the support of various members, including disgraced ex-Rep. Mark Foley (R. Fla). It is the called the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 and various states are now being compelled to put juvenile names into the system over the objections of many child advocates.
The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 attempts to close a loophole in registry systems for predators who are also minors. There is no question that there are such minors can be dangers to society. Amie Zyla was violently sexually assaulted when she was only eight. The attacker was a 14-year-old boy named Joshua Wade, who was a family friend on a sleep over. Since his record was sealed, he was able to secure a good as a summer camp worker when he was released, where he promptly (as an adult) abused various girls.
Such stories do show that need to deal with such predatorial minors. However, the scope of the federal law is astonishing and the need to put many of these minors on a stigmatizing register is highly questionable. Consider the case described recently by a L.A. newspaper:
When Ricky was 16, he went to a teen club and met a girl named Amanda, who said she was the same age. They hit it off and were eventually having sex. At the time Ricky thought it was a pretty normal high school romance.
Two years later, Ricky is a registered sex offender, and his life is destroyed.
Amanda turned out to be 13. Ricky was arrested, tried as an adult, and pleaded guilty to the charge of lascivious acts with a child, which is a class D felony in Iowa. It is not disputed that the sex was consensual, but intercourse with a 13-year-old is illegal in Iowa.
Ricky was sentenced to two years probation and 10 years on the Iowa online sex offender registry. Ricky and his family have since moved to Oklahoma, where he will remain on the state’s public registry for life.
The contrast with the Spears case is striking. (Click here).
It would seem a far better idea to allow judges to unseal such cases like that of Joshua Wade or in the very least narrow such laws to the most serious offenses.
Sex offenses now can range from touching the private parts of another minor to violent rape. Putting 14 year olds on the registry for fondling in consensual cases makes little sense, but states face penalties if they do not comply with the federal law.
There is no question that the police and the public need to have the ability to track people like Wade. However, the sponsors of this law seemed to give little thought to the range of conduct covered by the act and no one now wants to be accused of “watering down” a sexual predator law.
For the full story, click here