Sex Offender Laws Named For Children: Definitions and Drawbacks

There are four basic laws included in United States Sex Offender Laws, initiated from the hands and hearts of the parents and families whose children were kidnapped, raped, and murdered by previously convicted sex offenders.

While it is certain that the intentions behind these laws were good, and the meaning destined to prevent cases like their own from ever happening again, the fact that sex offenders STILL do not have separate and defined classifications (to which certain parts of the broad scope of these laws are relevant, and in turn, irrelevant) will forever doom them to a less than mediocre standard of any kind of prevention whatsoever.

These laws serve as broad punishment for more than predatory child molesters, or violent rapists. These laws paint all sex offenders (including our "Romeo and Juliet's") with the broad brush of punishment (prison sentencing), stigmatization, vilification, humiliation, violence (including murder), harassment, homelessness, joblessness,and many other forms of degradation completely irrelevant to their "crime".

We must introduce legislation that will use sex offender laws and sex offender registration for ONLY the violent, predatory offenders. Rather than recoil in fear from the words "sex offender", we must find our strength and stand boldly to proclaim the injustices and to right them accordingly.

MEGAN'S LAW

Named for seven year old Megan Kanka, who was raped and murdered in 1994 in New Jersey by Jesse Timmendequas, a neighbor and convicted sex offender. This law requires law enforcement to make information available to the public regarding registered sex offenders. States decide individually how to implement this notification. Internet, newspapers, pamphlets and handbills are some common means. Known nationally as part of the Sexual Offender (Jacob Wetterling) Act of 1994, it also requires notification to law enforcement of address change, change in employment, or release from any form of custody. There has been an "International" Megan's Law proposed, it is being considered at this time.

DRAWBACKS

Although Megan's Law has created a lot of hype since its inception, studies and statistics prove that there is no evidence of deterrence due to the law itself. A study by the New Jersey Department of Justice and Rutger's University was done in 2009, in New Jersey, the state where Megan Kanka resided when the crime was committed against her. The study found that Megan's Law hasn't changed the types of sex crimes committed, nor shown a decrease in the number of victims. What it has done is make sex offenders easier to identify, stalk, and commit acts of violence (including murder) against. There is an increase of harassment and targeted violence and murder committed against people who have been found exclusively by the information on the registry and hunted down. They call this "vigilante justice", however, it has been shown that the "vigilantes" have NOT known the specifics of the crimes committed by those registered as sex offenders.While these murderous acts are inexcusable towards ANYONE, regardless of criminal status, they have "mistakenly" murdered young men who were included on the registry for cases related to "Romeo and Juliet Law", believing they were ridding the world of pedophiles, or rapists. No matter who is targeted, the point is, do we really want those with that kind of outlook, that kind of hateful intent GIVEN information on where to hunt down potential victims? The pending "International" Megan's Law is another law our "Romeo and Juliet's" could do without. This law would prevent convicted sex offenders from ever leaving the country.

JESSICA'S LAW

Enacted in 2005, this Florida law, (which forty-two other states have enacted versions of), is named for Jessica Lunsford, a young Florida girl who was raped and murdered by John Couey, a convicted sex offender. This law provides a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison, and lifetime electronic monitoring of adults convicted of Lewd and Lascivious Conduct against a victim twelve years old or younger. It also provides that sex offenders cannot live near schools, parks, or areas where children congregate. All offenders are equally subject, regardless of the nature or severity of their crime.

DRAWBACKS

Jessica's Law has forced thousands of sex offenders into the streets due to its residency restrictions. As of 2010, there are 2,300 homeless registered sex offenders in California alone. Many are questioning the effectiveness of a law, that due to its very restrictions, would seem to make people feel less safe. Combining that with the known fact that instability in an offender's (of any sort) personal life can dramatically increase the chance that the offender will re-offend. Statistics are high for people on the registry who are homeless, increasing the chances of violating their probation by not having a stable address to list, or be visited at when checked on by their parole officer. The fact that all offenders are equally subject, regardless of the nature or severity of their crime, leaves individual states to bear the financial burdens, as well as the burden of law enforcement manpower being stretched to the hilt. There are simply not enough resources to effectively monitor all of those on the registry, which is another good reason for definition and separation of crimes that fall under the sex offender laws. If we get back to basics, and pare down the registry to ONLY those who are violent and predatory, we can put the focus back where it belongs, and use our resources for the protection of our communities.

ADAM WALSH ACT

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act was signed into law in 2006. Named for six year old Adam Walsh, who was abducted from a Florida shopping mall and killed by Otis Toole, a convicted sex offender, in 1981. This law's sex offender registration provisions replace those in the Jacob Wetterling Act. This law defines a 3-tier system for tracking, monitoring, and updating sex offenders according to their cases' degree of seriousness and danger. This law also provides the nationwide sex offender registry, and provides that every state comply with the posting of sex offender information on the internet. As of May 2010, only three states and two American Indian Territories are in compliance with this law. Additionally, active compliance with the Adam Walsh Act is subject to all sex offenders, no matter the date of their crime; a controversial aspect, which has, so far, been deemed unconstitutional.


DRAWBACKS

There are currently 705,000 sex offenders nationwide, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Of these 705,000, it is estimated that 30% are young people who fall under the Romeo and Juliet Law. This 30% has already been deemed non-violent and non-predatory. However, with each state's compliance with this law, many people believe they are "demonizing" those who commit non-violent offenses. The way the law is written, it is so widespread there is no possible way to distinguish between one who is dangerous and one who is not, leaving our "Romeo and Juliet's" at a distinct disadvantage.  Again, we need to bring definition to the table, BEFORE these laws are applied haphazardly. So far, California has been holding off on compliance, as have a host of other states, and for good reason. Firstly, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has already stated that the economics of compliance with the law are nearly impossible, as California state laws classify offenders differently than they would under the Adam Walsh Act, which would cause the state to suffer (even further) economically to revamp the entire registry. As well as the fact that there is reason to believe it will only heighten the hysteria, feed the fear,and antagonize the already precarious situation of sex offenders hunted down and killed in their own homes, or in the streets they are flocking to due to homelessness. The fact that this law will be retroactive to any and all sex offenders, no matter the type of crime committed, no matter the date of the crime committed makes it additionally harsh. Do we, as a state, as a nation, truly want to vilify and condemn our young people, in consensual boyfriend/girlfriend relationships for the rest of their lives under laws like the Adam Walsh Act?

CHELSEA'S LAW

This is currently a proposed law, named for seventeen year old Chelsea King, who was admittedly raped and murdered by John Albert Gardner III in southern California. This law proposes that known sex offenders should be outfitted with GPS tracking devices (for LIFE) which would track their every move, and alert law enforcement if they traveled into "restricted" areas; defined as schools, parks, and anywhere children congregate.

DRAWBACKS

Although this law has yet to be implemented, there are already serious ramifications. Firstly, again, there is no definition or separation to justify who must wear this bracelet (FOR LIFE!). So the way it stands, ANYONE required to register as a sex offender could be subject to the horrors of loss of privacy, humiliation, and very easily, violation of parole or probation, if one was to wander unknowingly into a "restricted" area. Should our young people, our "Romeo and Juliet's" be remanded to this kind of life sentence? Is it fair that 20 years from now, someone who had consensual sex with a boyfriend/girlfriend, can only live in approved areas (and hopefully be able to find housing there), can only work at a place of employment in an approved area (very hard to find) and can never for the rest of their lives live freely, without the monitoring system?


We support enacting safe and sane sex offender laws. We support tough legislation for violent, predatory offenders. But to subject our young people, who have acted consensually and non-violently, to the same harsh sentencing and life-altering consequences as though who acted with criminal or malicious intent is WRONG.


 Our mission is to change California law. No easy task, as lawmakers are skittish when it comes to taking anything away from the registry; feeling that it may make them seem "soft" on crime, no matter the definitions. But as socially conscious people, we must rise to the task at hand. We cannot let small mindedness, weak consciousness, and general hysteria prevail. Our society is not only made wicked by its ills, but by those who intention goodness and achieve only worse ills.

Awareness-Advocacy-Change

Unlawful Sex With A Minor - What It Really Means

One of the most common misconceptions we have encountered in our studies, conversations, and networking around the country has been the mistaken idea that Unlawful Sex With A Minor charges apply only to those who have been involved in a relationship in which one partner was a minor, the other partner, an adult (over eighteen years old in California).

It is important to note that Unlawful Sex With A Minor charges include any circumstance in which both partners involved in "consensual" intimate relationships, have been minors, as well.

Many parents, as well as their young teens, were unaware that these charges existed, and were just as serious for two sixteen year olds (for example), or a fourteen and sixteen year old, or any combination of "teens" under the age of eighteen years old.

California law is clear on the fact that anyone under the age of eighteen years old is "incapable" of giving consent, making any intimate contact, even within the context of a loving, boyfriend/girlfriend (or boyfriend/boyfriend, girlfriend/girlfriend, as the case may be) relationship illegal.

Please see our "California Law Statutes" for the precise letter of the law. Educate yourselves, as well as your teens. While teen sexuality may seem a commonplace subject, and teen sexual activity may seem accepted, amongst teens, and in certain circles, "tolerated" to a degree by adults; these charges are extremely serious; their consequences, life altering.

What Is Needed To Convict ? Common Misconceptions

A common misconception amongst teens, as well as some adults, with regard to Romeo and Juliet cases, is that it must be either the underage minor in the relationship or his/her parents that "press charges" in the case.

The truth is that only the District Attorney can actually bring charges against a person to make a case. However, the actual information, or initial "tip" can be passed along to the Police Department by ANYONE.

Countless cases have been charged and prosecuted despite the fact that the minor in question and his/her parents:

-had known of the relationship

-had acknowledged it was consensual in nature

- had actually objected to charges being brought.

Whether or not the other parties object to the bringing of charges is of no consequence, as once it has been reported to the police (and the District Attorney has determined there is enough evidence to bring charges) it becomes the complaint of the state, and is out of the hands of the citizens for good.

While there are mandated reporters; teachers, counselors, doctors, nurses, and daycare providers among them, whose duty it is to report anything of this nature to police, absolutely ANYONE can make a report regarding Sex With A Minor charges.

It is important to note that once charges have been brought, there are only 3 things needed to convict:

1. The "victim's" (legal terminology) initial statement.

2. The "responsibility of assumption" of the "victim's" age by
the defendant.

3. The "victim's" testimony.

Another common misconception is that there must be physical evidence to convict.

Many people assume there must be identifiable DNA (such as a "rape kit", a pregnancy, or other means of identification, such as a shared STD).

However, unlike murder, unlike just about every other type of crime, this "crime" requires absolutely NO physical evidence to convict.

Add to that the Statute of Limitations for "Statutory Rape" and related charges, being up to 3 years in California, and perhaps a picture is beginning to form of just how easily charges can be brought in these Romeo and Juliet cases.

We urge you to read the California Penal Code, as well as the Statutes relevant to these charges for yourself.

Take the time to speak with and educate your teens about the seriousness of these charges, the possible ramifications they may have on their lives, and how relatively easily these charges can be brought.

Each family teaches their own ethics, their own morality, with regards to their teenagers becoming sexually active. But until we can incorporate the facts and fundamentals of teen-related California Sex Crime Law into our student's Sexual Education classes, where we can ensure the broad spectrum of our youth will absolutely be informed; it is our duty as parents and educators to do so.

With the proposed Romeo and Juliet Law for California, we hope to bring a voice of reason to our Sex Crime laws.

We want to save our teens and young adults from mandatory prison sentencing, mandatory lifetime sex offender registration, possible "aversion" therapy, possible lifetime mandatory GPS tracking, and any and all other punishments that were originally created and meant for violent and predatory sex offenses, primarily against children.

Please join us by reading the materials here, sharing with friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and signing our petition!

We need to make the California Romeo and Juliet Law a reality, for the sake of all our young people!

California For Romeo and Juliet Law
Awareness-Advocacy-Change

Unlawful Sex With A Minor Vs. Lewd And Lascivious Conduct - the Differences

Under California law, there are two separate categories that one may be charged in with regard to Romeo and Juliet scenarios.

The first is "Unlawful Sex With A Minor" (formerly known as "Statutory Rape").

The second is the far more serious of the two, "Lewd and Lascivious Conduct".

These are the two main categories from which other charges (such as "Oral Copulation" or "Sexual Battery") may stem.

Although the general subject matter is similar, the distinct definitions, circumstances, and consequences are vastly different.

UNLAWFUL SEX WITH A MINOR (formerly known as "Statutory Rape"):


Unlawful Sex With A Minor charges are the less serious of the two. The basic definition involves an act of engaging in sexual intercourse with a person below the legal age of consent, but above the age of a child (usually determined to be 14 years of age).


An Unlawful Sex With A Minor case can be charged as either a misdemeanor, or a felony. In legal terms, this is what is known as a "wobbler", and largely depends on the age of the minor involved as to how it will be charged.


With a minor not more than 3 years older or 3 years younger than the accused:

MISDEMEANOR/ Up to 1 year in County Jail/ $1000 in fines.

With a minor more than 3 years younger:

MISDEMEANOR or FELONY/ 1 year in County Jail or State Prison/ $1000-$10,000 in fines.

When the accused is 21 years of age and minor is 16 years of age or younger:

MISDEMEANOR or FELONY/ 1 year in County Jail OR 2,3, or 4 years in State Prison / $1000-$10,000 in fines.


"Consent" is not a defense to these charges, as California law deems that anyone under 18 years of age (a minor) is incapable of giving consent.


All of these convictions require probation/parole.


Unlike the more serious Lewd and Lascivious charges, Unlawful Sex With A Minor DOES have a provision that says if one honestly and reasonably believed that the alleged "victim" was over the age of 18 at the time, one CANNOT be convicted under this law.

The three requirements to prove this are:

Statements made by the "victim" that he/she was over 18 years of age.

General appearance or attire of "victim"(leading one to believe they were older).

Where the accused met the "victim" (as in an adult venue, such as an 18 and over club, or at an adult party).

However, these requirements, in many cases, are hard to prove.


If convicted of Unlawful Sex With A Minor in California, the law does NOT require Sex Offender Registration.


LEWD AND LASCIVIOUS CONDUCT:


Lewd and Lascivious Conduct charges are by far the more serious of the two.

The main reason someone in a Romeo and Juliet case would be charged with Lewd and Lascivious Conduct RATHER than Unlawful Sex With A Minor, is the age, as well as the age difference, of and between the minor and the adult.


Lewd and Lascivious Conduct involves touching a minor anywhere on the body (even on the outside of the clothing) "with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions or sexual desires of either party".

Each independent act (each touch to different parts of the body, whether they are sexual parts or not) is counted as an "act", or a "count". This means that even if there were only one occasion, or one "incident", several "acts" could be charged.


Sexual Intercourse is not required to be charged under this law.


A Lewd and Lascivious charge is always a Felony charge.

Involving a Minor, below 14 years old/ 3, 6, or 8 years in State Prison/$10,000 in fines.

Parole/Possible GPS tracking device/Possible psychotherapy or behavior modification.

Mandatory Lifetime Sex Offender Registration.

Mistaken belief in the minor's age is NOT a defense to this charge.

"Consent" is not a defense, as California law deems that anyone under the age of 18 years old (a minor), is incapable of giving consent.


Although the exact definition of this law varies from state to state, in California, Lewd and Lascivious Conduct can be comprised of many different charges.

Prostitution, pornography, indecent acts, indecent exposure and co-habitating with an unmarried partner in a sexual relationship (this one is rarely used any more), all fall under the Lewd and Lascivious law.

Validity of the Victim's Testimony Clause

We have recently received mail regarding the question of the validity of the "Victim's Testimony Clause".

The victim's testimony is one of three things needed to convict someone in California in an Underage Sex With A Minor, or Lewd and Lascivious Conduct case.

It happens quite frequently in cases that would fall under the Romeo and Juliet Law, were California to have one, that the "victim" will refuse to testify against their boyfriend or girlfriend. There is a clause in California law that prevents the victim having to testify if it is deemed that their participation in testimony would be detrimental to said victim.

However, it is not often that this clause is upheld. Any aggressive district attorney will subpoena the victim, or at least their testimony (whether or not it is in open court or by deposition). In these cases, the testimony must be given, and to do it by deposition bypasses the clause in that it is reasoned that behind closed doors it is somehow less detrimental or traumatic.

Therefore, it is almost unheard of that the victim's testimony will not be taken, in one form or another, whether the victim initially wishes to grant it to the court or not.

Sociable

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