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Consent laws strengthened in California

William Ferchland

Four states have relaxed their laws regarding youth arrested for sex when their ages are close and consent is given.

In California, though, where the age of consent is 18, sex offender laws have strengthened. In November, voters approved a state initiative named “Jessica’s Law” that prohibited registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a park or school.

In El Dorado County, about 10 cases involving sex between a youth and adult are reported each year, said El Dorado County Assistant District Attorney Hans Uthe. But the frequency could be higher, because the incidents are often not reported, Uthe added.

“I would imagine it’s happening,” the prosecutor said recently.

A recent Georgia case garnered national headlines when Genarlow Wilson was sentenced to 10 years in prison for consensual sex with a 15-year-old female when Wilson was 17.

The case is being heard in the state’s court of appeals to get Wilson out of prison.

Uthe explained that states have different laws for sex offender cases. Those molesting youth under age 14 can be charged with a lewd act on a child with a maximum sentence of eight years.

Other laws deal with victims if they are 14 and 15 years old, Uthe said.

When such a case is prosecuted, prosecutors consider the nature of the relationship, severity of abuse and sophistication and maturity of both parties “but the bottom line is it’s against the law, and we try to enforce the law,” Uthe said.

In Nevada, the age of consent is 16. But since minors are considered to be younger than 21 years old, someone could be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor in certain cases, according to Tahoe Township Justice Court Judge Richard Glasson.

The Wilson case has brought the issue to the forefront lately.

According to Stateline.org, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana and Texas have changed laws so an adult who has sex with a person below the age of consent won’t necessarily be labeled a sex offender.

Several factors will be considered, such as the level of risk the offender poses, the Web site stated.


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