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Your 18-year-old son is dating a 16-year-old female classmate – no big deal, right?

A two-year age difference isn’t particularly alarming, and dating is fairly standard at that age.

Depending on the state, Romeo and Juliet laws may reduce the severity of the offense from a felony to a misdemeanor, reduce the penalty to a fine, probation, or community service, and/or eliminate the requirement that the convicted adult register as a sex offender.

The following are just a few examples of Romeo and Juliet laws currently in place in the United States: Exceptions and Other Considerations In addition to Romeo and Juliet laws, some states have specific exemptions when both parties to the sexual act are minors, or the person to be charged is legally married to the minor.

Georgia law, which has since been changed to classify this act as a misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of one year in prison, also required Wilson to register as a sex offender when he was released.

At 21 years of age, Wilson was released from prison when the court declared his sentence “grossly disproportionate to his crime.” Other states have made similar changes in an attempt to undo the harsh effects of exceptionally strict laws. Statutory rape laws are based on the premise that although young girls may want to have sex, they may not have enough experience or discernment to make a mature, informed decision.

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.

However, because of their age difference, the jury still found Dixon guilty of statutory rape and aggravated child molestation, and sentenced him to a mandatory 10 years in prison under Georgia law.Although there is no public talk of prosecution, and much of the case would depend on where and when the sexual activity took place, onlookers have questioned whether Spears’ boyfriend could be charged with statutory rape, even though the two were in a long-term, consensual relationship.Parents, particularly those with teenage daughters, certainly have cause for concern.Only 12 states set a specific age (ranging from 16 to 18), while in the majority of states, the age of consent depends on multiple factors, including the ages of each partner and the number of years between them.The purpose behind most statutory rape laws is to punish grown adults who take sexual advantage of a minor.

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