A recent case involving two Wisconsin teenagers has raised some controversy. It is a good example of the legal troubles that can befall two consenting teenagers in a romantic relationship as a result of strict enforcement of Wisconsin's sex crime laws.
A 19-year-old man has been in jail since September for communicating with his 17-year-old girlfriend in violation of the terms of his probation. He could now face significant prison time.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the two teens from Sturgeon Bay began a relationship in 2009 when he was a senior and she was a freshman. In March of last year, both teens were interviewed by police after the girl's friends reported to school officials about incidents of sexual touching between the couple.
By this time, he was 18 and she was just 15, which meant that their activities were illegal under Wisconsin law. However, both teens said that their sexual encounters were consensual. The girl believes that her friends reported to school officials out of jealously about their relationship.
In a statement to the police, the young man said: "I knew it was illegal for me to have sexual intercourse with [her] but I did not know it was illegal to touch each other in a sexual manner."
The young man was charged with sexual assault of a child. He was offered deferred prosecution for that felony but was found guilty of the related misdemeanors of third and fourth-degree sexual assault. He was sentenced to probation with a list of conditions, including completely staying away from his girlfriend.
In September of this year, he violated that condition by meeting up with his girlfriend, who is now 17. He was arrested the next day and has been in jail since that time.
The young man now faces some serious potential consequences. His deferred prosecution agreement could be pulled, his probation could be revoked. He could be looking at up to three years in prison and lifetime registry as a sex offender in Wisconsin.
As we have previously written, Wisconsin's tough stance on sex crimes can sometimes do more harm than good if applied in the wrong context.
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Tale of teenage love also a crime story," Bruce Vielmetti, Nov. 14, 2011