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Sex crimes: when the punishment doesn't fit the crime

Arguably more than any other type of criminal offense, those of a sexual nature are among the most reviled by society. Consequently, the penalties associated with such crimes are among the harshest. Massachusetts residents who are convicted of sex crimes not only face the penalties associated with an initial sentence, but are often also required to register as a sex offender for a minimum of 20 years.

While the potential damage caused to victims of sexual offenses cannot be overstated, in some cases the punishment simply does not fit the crime. This is often especially true when it comes to juveniles who are convicted of sex crimes, several examples of which were recently detailed in an article in The New Yorker.

As is discussed in the article, too often in the cases of juveniles-some who are as young as nine and 10-there is a rush to judgment and a child's offenses are viewed with a bias slant by adults who are quick to label such behaviors as criminal and deviant rather than, potentially, a simple case of never being taught that such acts are inappropriate and wrong. Consequently, serious criminal charges are filed and a child and his or her parents likely don't fully understand the severity of the charges or of the life-altering penalties that can result from taking a plea deal.

In recent years, there has also been an explosion in the number of sex crimes cases involving teens who send and/or receive sexually explicit photos via text messages and the Internet. One example highlighted in the article describes how a 16-year-old girl was charged with "multiple felony charges for sexting a picture of herself to her boyfriend." The girl's boyfriend, who received the text messages, was also charged.

Criminal charges of a sexual nature can also arise in situations involving consensual relationships between teens. For example an 18-year-old high school student who engages in a consensual sexual relationship with a 16-year-old boyfriend or girlfriend could face sex charges.

In many of these cases, the goal of the juvenile or teen and his or her parents is a quick resolution which may include pleading to criminal charges of which the implications are often much more serious than many realize. For these reasons, parents of minor-aged children who are facing criminal charges related to sexual offenses would be wise to consult with a criminal defense attorney.

Source: Slate, "Listed for Life," Jane Shim, Aug. 13, 2014

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