A Texas boy could be jailed and put on the sex offender registry for having sex with his 12-year-old girlfriend.
The boy, 14, has been charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child, according to the Houston Chronicle. He and his mother claim the sex between him and his girlfriend was entirely consensual. Texas currently has a "Romeo and Juliet" law, which protects couples separated by three years of age. The law stipulates the younger of the two must at least be 14 years old.
"He had consensual sex with his little girlfriend and he loved her. They were boyfriend-girlfriend," said the boy's mother. "And because he turned 14, they want to make him a sex offender, put him on the registry with pedophiles and child molesters -- really sick and dangerous people."
The teen's lawyer is arguing against the "gray area" of the law, stating that if the girlfriend were 18 years old, it would be the boy who would be the victim. Or if the girlfriend were days away from her 13th birthday, the law would also not protect the boy from criminal charges.
"The idea that a 14-year-old who has sex with a person just a little bit younger than him or her would be treated as the worst of the worst in our society and placed on the sex offender registry is really sick," said attorney Joseph Gutheinz. Neither has been identified because they are both minors.
Gutheinz also says the law defeats the purpose of protecting minors because his client is being prosecuted even though he's young enough to be the victim.
"It defeats the whole purpose of the Romeo and Juliet defense where you have two people relatively close in age and maturity," he said. "You would think the law would be more sympathetic as you go younger, because both parties are immature."
An attorney in the Harris County Public Defender's Office said she fought a similar case for roughly a year and it finally ended only after everyone agreed the act appeared to be consensual. She also said judges in these juvenile cases hardly ever force people to register as sex offenders.
Republican Rep. Joel Kleefisch of Wisconsin told WITI that his state seeks to pare down the number of "Romeo and Juliet" cases from sex offender registries, because it inhibits lawmakers' ability to find truly dangerous criminals, according to WSAU.
"Ruining someone’s life over what may or not be construed as a consensual act at the time should be taken very seriously," Kleefisch said.