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But if these teens are having sex, and you live in a state where prosecutors aggressively enforce the law, it’s possible that your son could be charged with statutory rape.

Take, for example, the widely publicized case of Marcus Dwayne Dixon, an 18-year-old high school honor student and star football player who had sex with a 15-year-old female classmate.

Whether you agree with this outcome or not, the fact remains that statutory rape is considered a serious crime, enforceable to the full extent of the law in many states – and can change the course of a teenager’s life forever.

A Hot Topic Among Teens The recent discovery that 16-year-old actress Jamie Lynn Spears, the sister of pop star Britney Spears, became pregnant by her 18-year-old boyfriend has again turned consensual sex among teens into a hotly contested issue.

Because the laws weren’t intended to punish two individuals close in age who engage in consensual sex, in many jurisdictions, an adult who is two or three years older than the minor will not be charged with statutory rape, or will be penalized less severely than a much older adult.

These so-called “Romeo and Juliet” laws provide defenses and reduced penalties in cases where the couple is relatively close in age.

In May 2004, the Georgia Supreme Court overturned Dixon’s conviction, stating that he should’ve been prosecuted on the lesser charge of misdemeanor statutory rape, which carries a maximum sentence of one year.

He walked out of prison on May 3, 2004, at age 19, a free man.

It’s unbelievable that I’m finally home after 14 months.

The laws are designed to protect young people who have less information and power than their 18-and-over counterparts.

For example, minors may be less likely than adults to understand sexually transmitted diseases, have access to contraception, and have the resources to raise a child if they become pregnant.

However, there are still restrictions in some states about the type of sexual activity that is permissible, such as oral sex and sodomy, as well as restrictions on relationships involving a minor and a person of authority, including teachers, coaches, or tutors.

All states have special provisions if any physical force was used or serious physical injury resulted.

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