North Carolina prosecutors have filed a relatively rare incest prosecution. According to WNCN-TV, Steven Pladl, 42, of Knightdale, and Katie Pladl, 20, were arrested last week for an incestuous relationship that produced a child. It is truly disturbing and disgusting account, which includes the knowledge of two younger children.
Katie Pladl had been given up for adoption as a child but tracked down her parents in 2016 and moved in — apparently as an adult. She moved into their home with Steven, her mother, and their two children. Steven eventually took to sleeping in her room on the floor. The wife separated and eventually secured a divorce. She later learned that Katie was pregnant after reading one of her daughter’s journal and child welfare was called. They interviewed the younger sisters who revealed the relationship and pregnancy.
The criminal code turns on the age of the accused parties:
2005 North Carolina Code – General Statutes § 14-178. Incest.
§ 14‑178. Incest.
(a)Offense. A person commits the offense of incest if the person engages in carnal intercourse with the person’s (i) grandparent or grandchild, (ii) parent or child or stepchild or legally adopted child, (iii) brother or sister of the half or whole blood, or (iv) uncle, aunt, nephew, or niece.
(b)Punishment and Sentencing.
(1)A person is guilty of a Class B1 felony if either of the following occurs:
a.The person commits incest against a child under the age of 13 and the person is at least 12 years old and is at least four years older than the child when the incest occurred.
b.The person commits incest against a child who is 13, 14, or 15 years old and the person is at least six years older than the child when the incest occurred.
(2)A person is guilty of a Class C felony if the person commits incest against a child who is 13, 14, or 15 and the person is more than four but less than six years older than the child when the incest occurred.
(3) In all other cases of incest, the parties are guilty of a Class F felony.
(c) No Liability for Children Under 16. � No child under the age of 16 is liable under this section if the other person is at least four years older when the incest occurred. (1879, c. 16, s. 1; Code, s. 1060; Rev., s. 3351; 1911, c. 16; C.S., s. 4337; 1965, c. 132; 1979, c. 760, s. 5; 1979, 2nd Sess., c. 1316, s. 47; 1981, c. 63, s. 1; c. 179, s. 14; 1993, c. 539, s. 1192; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 24, s. 14(c); 2002‑119, s. 1.)
Usually criminal prosecutions involve a minor child. This is different with two adult parties and both charged.
The case leads to an interesting debate over the basis and scope of the incest law, though few would support the couple in this case.
The criminalization of incest between adults is based on two different rationales. The original rationale was a moral one. That rationale has been challenged by libertarians and others as problematic without some based in concrete social harm. The second rationale was that incest produces genetic mutations within the population.
While consanguinity refers to a relationship between couples who share at least one common ancestor, incest is generally defined as as a relationship between first-degree relatives. North Carolina has a standard definition of “carnal intercourse with the person’s (i) grandparent or grandchild, (ii) parent or child or stepchild or legally adopted child, (iii) brother or sister of the half or whole blood, or (iv) uncle, aunt, nephew, or niece.” It is the extension to cousins that has attracted the most controversy. Some studies put the risk for first cousins at 1.7% to 2.8% above the population background risk.
The low rate (and availability of testing for potential defects) has led for some to call for a loosening of the criminal law for cousins. However, few have argued for such changes for fathers and daughters — an act viewed by most of us was disgusting morally.
Moreover, the relationship was clearly traumatic for the younger sisters in this case.
Can an argument be made for reexamining closer relatives who are adults (if younger siblings were not involved or other complicating elements)? Does it matter if testing can eliminate the medical risks and leave only the moral objection?
What do you think?