In the summer of 1976, I experienced a rite of passage. I was 16 years old. And no, this had nothing to do with becoming a licensed driver. Nevertheless, it would change my life forever. I lost my virginity. At long last, I didn’t feel alone among my peers. Finally, I knew what all the fuss was about. Well, at least the alleged fuss.
My first partner was a girl two years my senior, and we met on a camping trip a few weeks earlier. My parents were very liberal and had no problem with it. Our relationship was short-lived; as are many adolescent pairings.
But the point is as follows: If this had happened today and the parents objected, my first girlfriend would very likely be a registered sex offender because I was a minor in the eyes of the law. On the other hand, she was 18.
This is in no way suggesting that minors should engage in sexual relations, but anyone who isn’t living in a cave should know that it happens every day. Most of the parents of today’s teens were guilty of the same actions in their youth. It’s a fact.
However, with today’s Sex Offender Registry, anyone who has reached 18 in many states who has sex with anyone under that age can be tried and convicted of statutory rape. And guess what? Once this is on your record, you are required to register as a sex offender!
Now, answer this question: how many people over 18 have girlfriends or boyfriends that are 16 or 17 as opposed to 18; especially if only 2 or 3 years separates them in age? Is it fair that the older individuals in these couples should have to have their name desecrated for life by such ridiculous policies?
How about this hypothetical scenario? A man is driving his car down the highway in a remote area. He’s had to urinate for the past 15 minutes and his bladder is beginning to feel very uncomfortable. However, he discovers that the nearest town or rest area is 37 miles away. He can no longer hold back the urge, so he pulls over to the side of the road and at long last relieves himself.
Without warning, and seemingly out of nowhere, another car crosses his path. A woman is driving with a small daughter. She sees what is happening, and is disgusted. She copies the man’s license plate number and calls the police. Within minutes, he is picked up, arrested, and charged with indecent exposure.
If a harsh judge follows the letter of the law, there will be no plea bargain down to disorderly conduct, and the man will be convicted of the previously-mentioned crime of indecent exposure. Thus, he will be marked for life as a sex offender!
There are hundreds of thousands of websites on the Internet devoted to adult entertainment. Anyone over 18 (or 21 in some locations) can legally download images and/or videos of a sexual nature. Unfortunately, there are some sickening people out there who exploit minors. They manage to upload images of underage kids onto such sites.
Millions of adults surf porn on a daily basis, and an unintentional download of something that should not be there becomes highly likely. The conscientious surfer will hopefully and immediately be repulsed and exit such a site. Now let’s suppose the surfer doesn’t know a whole lot about computers, and his/her setup becomes filled with viruses and program failures.
They take it to a computer repair shop. The employee finds a few of these images buried on the hard drive. When this happens, they are obligated to report this to law enforcement. Thus, an innocent surfer who happens to enjoy adult entertainment can be tried and convicted of possession of child porn, even if he/she stumbles onto it inadvertently!
If the owner of the computer has no prior record, then a figurative slap on the wrist is probable. However, a tough judge could sentence such an individual to years in prison. Once released, the label of pedophile will haunt them forever. And that’s provided fellow inmates don’t finish him/her off behind bars.
In a nutshell, these are but 3 reasons why sex offender laws need some adjustment. In all of the preceding examples, innocent and inherently good people have the potential to be unfairly branded for the remainder of their lives.
This will affect their ability to become gainfully employed, to travel anywhere outside of state boundaries, and to seek a decent place to live. Put simply, none of these hypothetical people should be regarded as sex offenders in any way, shape, or form.
A true sex offender is deserving of his/her punishment and any future consequences that may follow; such as registration. This would include child molesters, exhibitionists, rapists, photographers and filmmakers who deliberately produce and/or distribute kiddie porn, and those who willingly purchase and collect such material.
As for all others? It is ridiculous and ludicrous to even be mentioned in the same breath.