By: Tricia Nell, Attorney with Liebmann, Conway, Olejniczak & Jerry S.C.
Teenage Dating/Relationships; Serious and Casual: Most teens would say, “I believe everyone my age ‘is doing it’ — and so long as I use protection, I am being responsible about it.” In today’s reality, teens date, have relationships, and “kick it,” which may include sexual touching, and even lead to sexual intercourse. Most teenagers will say, “What is wrong with that? I am with my boyfriend or girlfriend.” However, often times the teen couples are in different grades and are different ages. That is where the legal issues become very serious and most teens and their parents are not aware of the potential life changing consequences they could face.
Teenage Hook-Ups: More common now, teenagers “hook up” at parties, after meeting online in a chat room, or through friends and most of the time they do not even know each other’s age before they have sexual contact or sexual intercourse. There may or may not be alcohol or drugs involved, or the younger person may or may not be truthful about his or her age (statistically it is girls that are the younger gender involved). Sometimes younger girls are engaging in these activities without telling the older make teens their ages. The next thing you know . . . the male teenager finds himself in jail being charged with felony counts.
PUNISHMENT/SENTENCE (Sexual intercourse with a person age 16 or older): Anyone who has sexual intercourse with a person who has not attained the age of 16 years is guilty of a Class A Misdemeanor and will face imprisonment and fine not to exceed 9 months or $10,000 , or both.
EXAMPLE: A sophomore girl (16 years of age) is dating a junior guy (17 years old) — OR a junior girl (16 years old) is dating a junior guy (17 years old) and is having sexual intercourse. This may not seem wrong to the teenage couple who are in a committed relationship or even just casually dating BUT this is wrong and illegal under the law!
PUNISHMENT/SENTENCE (Sexual intercourse/Sexual Intercourse with a person under the age of 16): Wisconsin applies a “ZERO TOLERANCE” approach to sexual contact or intercourse with anyone under the age of 16. At a minimum, the law states any individual who has sexual contact or sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16 is guilty of Second Degree Sexual Assault of a Child, a Class C felony, and may be sentenced to 40 years in prison, pay a maximum fine of $100,000 and be permanently added to the State Sex Offender Registry. (Most persons found guilty of a sex crime must register as a sex offender, however there is an exception under certain conditions when both individuals are minors and not more than 4 years apart.)
EXAMPLE: A freshman girl (14-15 years old) is dating a junior guy (17 years old) and they are having sexual relations. Again this may not seem wrong to the teenage couple who are in a committed relationship or even casually dating BUT this is VERY wrong and illegal under the law.
Your might read this and think: “Surely these laws can’t apply to me — the sex or sexual contact was consensual — I did not force her!” Think again. According to Wisconsin Law, an individual under the age of 16 is a child and a child cannot give consent, therefore consent is not a defense to this CRIME . . . that is right . . . CRIME. In fact, the Courts consider the isue of consent to be “irrelevant” to the case.
You might say, “Well, I cannot be charged, I did not even know this was a crime.” Think again. Wisconsin does not alow for a defense called “ignorance of the law,” you are supposed to know the laws inthe state that you reside in.
You might say, “Well, I cannot be charged, I did not even know how old this girl was — she told me she was 17 years old.” Think again. Wisconsin does not allow for a defense because the vistim intentionally misrepresented her age to the defendant.
PARENTS CAN BE CHARGED WITH A CRIME TOO? The law, though, doesn’t just apply to teens. In Wisconsin, a parent/guardian is responsible for the welfare of a child who is under the age of 16, and is liable if he/she has knowledge that there is an intention for boyfriend/girlfriend to have sexual contact or intercourse with their teenager and does not prevent it OR that their teenager is having sex or engaging in sexual contact and fails to take action.
PUNISHMENT/SENTENCE: The penalty is a Class F felony with imprisonment for up to 12 years and six months and a fine of $25,000.
EXAMPLE: Ben is a 17 year old junior who has dated Christine, a 15 year old sophomore sime they were in middle school. The two swear that one day they’re going to get married. Christine tells her mom, Nancy Naive, that Ben told her that he intended on having sex with her on prom night — that it was time and he didn not want to wait any longer. Nancy Naive makes no attempt to stop her daughter other than to say “use protection.” On that fateful spring evening, the two engage in consensual sex. Christine’s Dad, Johnny Law, who isn’t a fan of Ben, later finds out and reports the incident to the local police. Based on these facts, Ben could be charged and convicted of Second Degree Sexual Assault, that carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and Christine’s mom, Nancy Naive, could be convicted on Felony “Failure to Act” charges, where she could get a 12 and a half year prison sentence — an immense price to pay for night of “teenage romance.”
Bottom Line: Parents and teenagers both need to be fully aware that the consequences of teenage sex extend far beyond pregnancy and disease. Prison time, exorbitant fines, and being branded a sexual predator . . . no matter how “in love” you are, it’s simply just not worth it.
This article is not intended to create an attorney/client relationship and is for informational purposes only. The information in this article is the author’s own summation based upon WI statutes and her own examples for simplicity. The author shall make corrections if appropiate.