In the wake of the recent tragedy resulting from a teenage sexual encounter in Huron Township, legal experts are saying that Michigan’s criminal sexual conduct laws should be reconsidered. Using felony offenses to punish an older teenage boy against a younger teenage girl (and vice versa) makes bad public policy.
The Huron Township case involves sex between a 14-year-old girl and an 18-year-old boy. Initially, the girl indicated it was consensual, then recanted and said she had been raped. By law, however, 14 year-old is not able to “consent” despite his or her willing participation in a sexual encounter. After receiving intense ridicule at school, the girl committed suicide.
This case has brought the issue of teen sex and Michigan criminal sexual conduct laws to the forefront. The reality is that teens live in a highly sexually society, with significant numbers of teens engaged in sexual relations and sexting. Treating these behaviors as felonies, with the result mandatory registration on the Michigan sex crimes registry, is unjust and disproportionate to the act involved.
A recent article in the Detroit Free Press labeled Michigan’s’ all-or-nothing legal scheme is “lunacy” – with the boundaries between “perpetrator” and “victim” based on calendar age arbitrary, noting “Some 14-year-old girls are sexually savvy, others are shockingly naïve. Some 18-year-old boys are predatory; and some lack the maturity, or at least the superficial sophistication, of the younger women competing for their attention.”