Four states recently adjusted their sex offense statutes to allow more leeway for youth who get in legal trouble resulting from consensual sex.
As states across the nation get tougher on adult sex offenders, new laws passed in Connecticut, Texas, Indiana and Florida reflect growing sensitivity toward youth who are prosecuted as sex offenders. In many cases, the youths had consensual sex with someone who was not much younger than they were. Yet they can face years in prison, and they almost always find their names on the state and national sex offender lists, often for the rest of their lives.
The dilemma has gained national attention through the case of Genarlow Wilson, a 17-year-old Atlanta teen who got 11 years in prison for receiving oral sex from a 15-year-old girl. A Georgia Superior Court judge recently reduced the charge to a misdemeanor and reduced the sentence, but State Attorney General Thurbert Baker appealed.
The recent changes in state laws either expanded the age gap for permissible consensual sex acts between youths – to, for instance, three years instead of two – or make it easier for youths to get their records expunged after prosecution.