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Laws against dating a minor

Your 18-year-old son is dating a 16-year-old female classmate – no big deal, right?

But if these teens are having sex, and you live in a state where prosecutors aggressively enforce the law, it’s possible that your son could be charged with statutory rape.

Take, for example, the widely publicized case of Marcus Dwayne Dixon, an 18-year-old high school honor student and star football player who had sex with a 15-year-old female classmate.

Because the laws weren’t intended to punish two individuals close in age who engage in consensual sex, in many jurisdictions, an adult who is two or three years older than the minor will not be charged with statutory rape, or will be penalized less severely than a much older adult.

These so-called “Romeo and Juliet” laws provide defenses and reduced penalties in cases where the couple is relatively close in age.

Georgia law, which has since been changed to classify this act as a misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of one year in prison, also required Wilson to register as a sex offender when he was released.

At 21 years of age, Wilson was released from prison when the court declared his sentence “grossly disproportionate to his crime.” Other states have made similar changes in an attempt to undo the harsh effects of exceptionally strict laws. Statutory rape laws are based on the premise that although young girls may want to have sex, they may not have enough experience or discernment to make a mature, informed decision.

Until recently, statutory rape laws applied only to females, ignoring situations involving sex between an adult female and underage male.