Recently there has a been a nation-wide trend to reform sex crime or “age of consent” laws to allow for the type of sexual interaction which occurs frequently between teenagers today. Before these reforms came into effect, high school seniors who dated freshmen or sophomores could find themselves the subject of serious criminal proceedings.
Beginning in 1996, when high school senior Frank Rodriguez was placed on the Texas sex offender registry for having consensual sex with- and indeed at the suggestion of- his freshman girlfriend Nikki Prescott. The draconian terms of Frank’s probation and a more detailed overview of age-of-consent reform can be found in Steve James’ Fall 2009 comment in the UMKC Law Review entitled Romeo and Juliet Were Sex Offenders: An Analysis of Age of Consent and a Call for Reform.
Bill 3667 amends Section 16-3-655 of the 1976 Code (South Carolina’s code of state laws), with the effect of creating the offense called “criminal sexual conduct in the third degree.” The new law states:
A person is guilty of criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the third degree if the actor is over fourteen years of age and the actor wilfully and lewdly commits or attempts to commit a lewd or lascivious act upon or with the body, or its parts, of a child under sixteen years of age, with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions, or sexual desires of the actor or the child. However, a person may not be convicted of a violation of the provisions of this subsection if the person is eighteen years of age or less when the person engages in consensual lewd or lascivious conduct with another person who is at least fourteen years of age.
Effectively, what this does is allow parents of high school students the freedom to determine what is appropriate for their children instead of the state’s criminal justice system.