Teen Sex Offenses Changed
Somewhat By New Law
By RICHARD MEEHAN
The Cool Justice Report
Nov. 29, 2007
EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report, http://cooljustice.blogspot.com
No series of crimes has garnered more attention in recent years than those involving sexual assaults on minors.
With the advent of Megan's Law, convicted sex offenders are required to register for a minimum of 10 years. Jessica's Law, recently enacted in Connecticut, has dramatically increased the penalties for sexual abuse of children.
In contrast, the legislature recently addressed the sexual relationships between younger and older teens. Sex, even consensual, with one under the age of 16 violates two separate statutes: those in the range of sexual assaults (1st through 4th degree); and Risk of Injury to a Minor.
An unfortunate byproduct of the efforts to protect young teens from sexual predation, the law also ensnared older teens, turning hormonal teens into registered sex offenders.
The stigma from conviction of any sex offense is lasting and devastating. Many of the sexual assault statutes carry mandatory minimum prison sentences. Those sentences are followed by extended periods of sex offender probation. Offenders are strictly monitored. They are restricted from attending events or places where youngsters commonly congregate, unless accompanied by a trained supervisor. They are prohibited from unsupervised contact with anyone under the age of 18. Future employers and neighbors are all informed that there is a registered offender among them.
Recognizing that sex among teenagers is a common occurrence, the law had provided a safety valve. It was an affirmative defense that the actor was no more than two years older than the underage partner, provided that partner was older than 13.
Acting on a bill supported by both the State's Attorneys and the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, that safety valve was increased from two to three years recently by the legislature.
Substitute Senate Bill 1458 became law effective Oct.1. The significant change is as follows:
[*1] Section 1. Section 53a-71 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2007):
(a) A person is guilty of sexual assault in the second degree when such person engages in sexual intercourse with another person and: (1) Such other person is thirteen years of age or older but under sixteen years of age and the actor is more than THREE years older than such person. . .
The current dilemma facing defense counsel is how to remedy the conviction of a 17 or 18 year old who would have qualified for the new three year safety valve but was convicted under the predecessor act because they were more than two years the senior of their partner.
Lawyers should consider applications to the Board of Pardons and Parole for young offenders who would have otherwise qualified had the new safety valve been in effect. Designation as a sex offender doesn't come with an explanation. Those surfing the Internet on the registry site are left with a view that such a youngster is a sexual predator rather than a hormonal teen.
Bridgeport attorney Richard Meehan Jr. was the lead defense counsel for former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim's corruption trial. Meehan is certified as a criminal trial specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 1994 and serves on the organizations Board of Examiners. He is a Charter Fellow, Litigation Counsel of America -- Trial Lawyer Honorary Society. Meehan has also obtained multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements in complex medical and dental malpractice and personal injury litigation. He is a past president of the Greater Bridgeport Bar Association and appears regularly on Court TV. Website, www.meehanlaw.com