In Part 1 and 2 of the series, I stated that Louisiana law has done a poor job of keeping up with the science of the teenage brain and the technology held in the palms of our hands. The state prescribes severe penalties for those who commit sex offenses, requires them to register as sex offenders and categorizes teens under the same roof of the same high school as minors, majors, juveniles, and adults.
As crazy as it sounds, our criminal justice system could ruin the life of a good kid you know. A teenager doing what teenagers do could be committing a crime that could result in a felony conviction, a jail sentence, or 15 years of sex offender registration.
Consider this post as Part 3 of a series of hypothetical scenarios on the effects of these laws on teenagers
In part 2 we talked about Brittney (15) and Justin. Let’s make Justin 19 years old:
At a party one night, Brittany (15 yrs + 11 months old) meets Justin (19 + 10 months old), a college student. They are almost 4 years apart in age. They date for a few weeks and have consensual sexual intercourse (insofar as a 15-year old can give legal consent). They never discuss sexual activity over text messages or emails – they don’t “sext.”
Brittney (15) is now dating Kevin (17), a senior at her high school. Kevin is 2 years and 1 month older than Brittney. They date for a few weeks and engage in a lot of “sexting” – very lewd and lascivious behavior is described, but they never have intercourse. No nude photos are produced by either party. Kevin is trying to get Brittany to sleep with him and specifically requests her to engage in sexual behavior.
Brittany’s phone is seized by a teacher one day for texting in class. The teacher turns it into the office and the school requires a parent to come sign a document to retrieve the phone. Brittany’s father unlocks the phone, reads the texts his daughter exchanged with Kevin, and calls the police.
During the police interview, Brittany tells the investigator everything, including information about her sexual relationship with 19-year old Justin and her “textual” relationship with 17-year old Kevin.
Who gets in trouble, and for what?
Who is in worse trouble: Brittany, Justin or Kevin?
Unlike in part 2, Brittney has done nothing wrong in the eyes of the law and there is no violation of La.R.S.14:81.1.1, the misdemeanor “Sexting” statute. She did not produce or distribute photos or videos of herself and is thus in violation of no law.
Kevin is guilty of La. R.S.14:81 – Indecent behavior with juveniles, a felony, because he engaged in the transmission of textual and written communication depicting lewd or lascivious words to Brittney who is over two years his junior. The penalty for this is 0 to 7 years of jail and a maximum fine of $5,000. He will be required to register as a sex offender for 15 years if he is convicted of this offense.
Kevin is also guilty of violating La. R.S. 14:81.3 – Computer-aided solicitation of a minor, a felony. His text messages to Brittney were “for the purpose of or with the intent to persuade, induce, entice, or coerce the person to engage or participate in sexual conduct.” Given our scenario, and our legislature’s inability to craft well-written law, conviction of this offense carries either 2-to-10 or 5-to-10 years without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence and a max fine of $10,000. See La.R.S. 14:81.3(B)(1)(a) and (B)(1)(c). He will be required to register as a sex offender for 15 years if he is convicted of this offense.
Here’s the conundrum:
Justin (19) is guilty of a misdemeanor for having sexual intercourse with Brittney (15). He has violated La.R.S. 14:80.1, MisdemeanorCarnal Knowledge of a Juvenile, because he is over 17 and Brittney is more than two years younger than him but not greater than four years younger than him. This charge carries a maximum fine of $1,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 6 months. This does not require Justin to register as a sex offender.
Justin might be charged with violating La.R.S. 14:81 (Indecent behavior) – a felony offense – but if Brittany explains to the police that she and Justin merely “had sex” with no foreplay, Justin should not be formally charged with violation of 14:81.