Hey Kids, Better Be Good At Math Or You Could Become A Sex Offender

Scary story:

An Alexandria teenager has been arrested and booked with pornography involving juveniles and carnal knowledge of a juvenile.

Police say 17-year-old James Darrell Dearborne Jr. was arrested after the mother of a 14-year-old Alexandria girl reported that he’d had sex with her daughter.

Officers spoke with the girl, who said she and Dearborne had sex in November and Dearborne had videotaped the encounter.

Granted, this is extremely stupid behavior. Note, however, there is nothing in the story about the sex or the taping being anything other than consensual. Note also both parties are juveniles. Yet one of them is facing felony charges and is about to lose any opportunity to succeed in life. Henceforth, he’s an exile from society. That is ridiculously disproportionate to the harm caused by both of their actions.

Still, the child porn charges did not surprise me. Injudicious use of child porn statutes to criminalize the kids they are supposed to protect is commonplace.

As for the carnal knowledge charge, initially I thought I read the article wrong. If the kid is seventeen, how can he have committed that crime? He is a juvenile, right? Wrong. In Louisiana, if a seventeen year old has consensual sex with anyone between the ages of thirteen and fifteen, that seventeen year old has committed a felony. That’s what this kid did.

But you can’t relax just because your girlfriend, or boyfriend, turns fifteen. If you are seventeen or eighteen and have relations with someone who is more than two years younger than you, you are a criminal. So if you’re seventeen years and six months old and have sex with your fifteen years and five months old girlfriend, you better not ever make her mad because if she goes to the cops you’re going to jail.

That’s the law. (The code sections are here, and here). Read it again. Then go away and try to remember it five minutes later. Then ask how fair it is to ruin a kid’s life for running afoul of either or these two statutes.

The rationale behind these laws? Don’t know. But in order to prevent any similar situations, I read and discussed this article with all of my classes today. I figured if I – an adult and ex-lawyer – did not know a seventeen year old could end up facing criminal charges for having consensual sex with his fifteen year old girlfriend then they probably didn’t either. I was right. Shock and outrage was the general reaction. Whether behavioral changes will follow is another issue. Somehow, I doubt it.

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