Is it Illegal to Have Sex? The Michigan “Romeo and Juliet” Law

Most states have what are referred to as statutory rape laws. Such laws typically make it illegal for anyone to have sex with a minor, though the definition of minor varies from state to state. In many states, the punishment for statutory rape is the same as the punishment for other sex crimes: in addition to incarceration, the offender must register as a sex offender for several years or for the rest of his or her life. When applied to non-violent youthful offenders, many feel that such a punishment is unfair and unwarranted. Until recently, Michigan’s statutory rape law required that a person convicted of having sex with a minor between the ages of 13 and 16 register as sex offender with the Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry. The older person would be the offender. Thus, if a 16-year old had “consensual” sex with his 15-year old girlfriend or boyfriend, that 16-year old would have to register as a sex offender for at least 15 years. On July 1, 2011, the law changed. While it is still illegal to have sex with a person age 13-16, if the age of the offender is within 4 years of the “victim” and the offender is 18-years old or younger, the punishment would not include having to register as a sex offender. This new law is referred to as the “Romeo and Juliet Law.”

Consequence of statutory rape laws
Statutory rape laws were put in place to protect children from sexual predators. The rationale is that minors under a certain age do not have the mental or emotional capacity to consent to sex. Thus, even if a child in the protected age group was not physically forced, and in fact agreed to the sexual or even initiated it, it would be a crime to have sex with that child. As a consequence, the offender would have criminal record.

Each time such a convicted offender applies to certain educational programs, or applies to any program that requires a background check, he or she will be flagged as having a criminal record. Many employers may be willing to overlook some criminal offenses, especially those committed by teenagers. Many young people have what some might consider as “petty” brushes with the laws, but clean up their acts to become productive citizens. This is one reason that juvenile records are often sealed or expunged. However, if the words “sex offender” are attached to a job applicant, or any other type of applicant, that application will likely quickly be turned down.

Furthermore, with the recent violence in schools, many schools now have security systems in place that require background checks in order to enter schools. If someone is a registered sex offender that person will not be permitted to enter the school, even if the person is a parent of a child attending that school.

Romeo and Juliet Law
Under the Romeo and Juliet law, while Michigan recognizes that teenagers engage in consensual sex it still prohibits such acts. It simply changes the punishment. If the older of the two “consenting” teens is age18 or younger and is within 4 years of the other teen, the punishment now does not include registering as a sex offender. However, the older teen still faces the possibility of jail time and will still have a criminal record. The change to the law only applies where the younger teen is age 13-16 and does not apply in cases where the sex was forcible. The law is not necessarily retroactive. However, a criminal defense attorney can petition to have a person convicted of such sexual misconduct removed from the registry, if the circumstances fit the Romeo and Julie law.

While the Romeo and Juliet law gives a nod to the reality that teenagers have sex, the law does not change that fact that the legislature deems teenage sex as illegal. Thus, it still reflects a paternalistic attitude that teenagers do not have the mental capacity to consent to sex. While most adults would prefer for teenagers to not engage in sex, it is likely that most would also agree that doing so should not be a criminal act. Given societal realities, do you think that sex between two consenting teens should be illegal?

Criminal Law Guide

Overview of Criminal Cases
When faced with the daily dramas of real criminal cases, be prepared for proceedings that look quite a bit different from those portrayed on prime time television.

1. Criminal Investigations In state and federal cases throughout the United States, criminal investigations are generally orchestrated by prosecutors, police and other members of law enforcement.
2. Grand Jury Indictments Generally, there are two ways to press charges in a criminal case: (1) by the filing of a criminal complaint, sometimes called a statement of charges or a “criminal information”; or (2) in the form of an indictment returned by a grand jury.
3. Arresting the Accused Whether probable cause is established in a criminal complaint, or through a formal grand jury indictment, an accused is often arrested after the issuance of a formal arrest warrant.
4. Arraignments, Pleas & Plea Bargains After an accused is arrested, she is brought before a judge in a proceeding known as an arraignment. There, bail will be set and the lawyers may engage in plea discussions.
5. Preliminary Hearings In the federal system, prosecutors must generally persuade a grand jury that there is probable cause to indict a particular defendant with a specific crime. This process is used in state cases as well, but there are more instances in which defendants are charged with crimes in state courts without being formally indicted.
6. Pretrial Discovery & Investigation In the federal system, prosecutors must generally persuade a grand jury that there is probable cause to indict a particular defendant with a specific crime. This process is used in state cases as well, but there are more instances in which defendants are charged with crimes in state courts without being formally indicted.
7. Pretrial Motions Absent a plea deal, many cases involve pretrial hearings in which the prosecution and the defense lawyers bicker over the admissibility of evidence and the viability of the charges themselves.
8. Criminal Trials Absent a plea agreement or pretrial dismissal of the case, the accused must stand trial before a judge or a jury. To cover trials effectively, reporters must master the elements of a trial, appreciate the significance of each step in this process, and anticipate a variety of evidentiary objections.
9. Sentencing Following a guilty verdict, the accused may file motions to set the verdict aside or ask the court for a new trial based upon a variety of irregularities or evidentiary problems arising during the course of the trial.
10. Criminal Appeals If convicted, defendants typically seek relief from adverse judgments through two methods: Appeals and petitions for writs of habeas corpus.

Ski Market will Honor 50 Percent of Gift Cards

HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) – Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has reached a preliminary agreement with a bankrupt company to honor at least 50 percent of the value of unused gift cards.Ski Market Ltd., after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December, had originally refused to honor the unused gift cards.
“Ski Market has agreed to give loyal consumers a lift – heeding our call and recognizing that consumer trust is imperative to Ski Market’s future success,” Blumenthal said.

“This preliminary agreement is a partial victory, and my office plans to continue working to assist consumers seeking additional reimbursements.”

Blumenthal filed a motion last week with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court seeking to compel Ski Market to honor approximately $200,000 worth or more of the remaining unused gift cards sold to consumers.

Ski Market, in initial public statements following its announcement of filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy, had rejected the cards entirely, saying that its main secured creditor did not authorize the use of the cards.

“This action is a positive first step, but not the last in our battle on behalf of consumers with unused Ski Market gift cards,” Blumenthal said. “We urge that consumers take advantage of it as soon as possible, assuming the bankruptcy court approves it.”

The bankruptcy court must still approve this new deal, which would allow consumers to use their cards for up to 50 percent of their value at any Ski Market store from Saturday-Jan. 24.

“I am pleased that Ski Market has agreed that its financial avalanche should not bury its promises to consumers,” Blumenthal said.

“We urgently warned Ski Market that it would doom itself by denying gift cards – destroying consumer confidence and deterring new buyers for the company assets. Ski Market is rightfully realizing its responsibilities to consumers. My office will continue to monitor this bankruptcy proceeding and fight for further consumer protections.”