Unlawful Sexual Activity among Teens

Teens who engage in sexual relations with other teens may feel they are legal to do so as long as both parties consent, however sometimes their relations are considered unlawful sexual activity.

Too young for consent

Photo by: Leo Hidalgo

Unlawful sexual activity among teens does not include instances or rape, sodomy or sexual abuse that carries severe penalties for the offender. Unlawful adolescent sexual activity are sexual relations where both parties give consent yet one or more parties are not at an age old enough for consent. According to the Salt Lake County Division of Youth Services, “teens and youth of a certain age range CANNOT consent to sexual activities. Even if a youth gave consent, they are not permitted by law to do so in certain circumstances – and anyone having sexual contact with them could face criminal charges. This rule still applies even if the contact was by a teen or youth with another teenager or youth.” So how young is too young for teens to engage in sexual activity and what are the punishments?

Felony charges

Unlawful sexual activity among teens is considered a felony if there is a major age difference between the consenting teens involved. According to Utah Code 76-5-401.3, teens face third degree felony charges if they are:

• 17 years old and engaging in unlawful sexual activity with another teen 12 or 13 years old, a four to five year age difference;
• 16 years old and engaging in unlawful sexual activity with a teen who is 12 years old, a four year age difference.

Close in age, still against the law

The closer in age the teens who are involved, the less severe the punishments. This law varies slightly if the younger of the teens is a 12 or 13 year old who has barely reached adolescence. Statute 76-5-401.3 states, teens face class A misdemeanor charges if they are:

• 16 years old engaging in unlawful sexual activity with a teen who is 13 years old, a three year age difference; or
• 14 to 15 and engaging in unlawful sexual activity with a 12 year old, a two to three year age difference.
Teens may be charged with class B misdemeanor if they are:
• 17 and engaging in unlawful sexual activity with another teen who is 14 years old, a three year age difference;
• 15 years old and engaging in unlawful sexual activity with a teen 13 years old, a two year age difference.

Even teens who are really close in age or the same age face charges for having sexual relations. The punishment is a class C misdemeanor if the teen is:

• 14 years old and engaging in sexual activity with a teen who is 12 to 13 years old, a one to two year age difference ; and also
• 12 or 13 and engaging in sexual activity with another teen who is 12 or 13, the same exact age.

Almost adults

The laws regarding sexual activity among teens changes once the younger party involved reaches the age of 16 or 17 years of age. 16 and 17 year old do not face charges for sexual relations with other teens their same age. If the other party is an adult, it may still be legal depending on the age difference. Utah Code 76-5-401.2 explains that “a person commits unlawful sexual conduct with a [16 or 17 year old] if [the person] is:

• seven or more years older but less than 10 years older than the minor (…) and the person knew or reasonably should have known the age of the minor;
• 10 or more years older than the minor (…); or
• Holds a relationship of special trust as an adult teacher, employee, or volunteer (…)”.

This statute goes on to note sexual conduct includes any sexual act, inappropriate touching, or indecent liberties with the minor. Charges for the adult involved range from a class A misdemeanor to a third degree felony.

Not just old fashioned thinking

Teens who wish to engage in sexual activity should be warned that refraining from such is not just old fashioned thinking, it is the law. Those who face charges for unlawful sexual conduct should consult with a juvenile defense attorney.

Utah Student Arrested For Rape of Classmate in School Parking Lot

A Utah high school student was arrested on suspicion of raping a fellow classmate in a vehicle located in their school’s parking lot.

High school parking lot

Photo by: Tom Leonard

18 year old Dylon Hernandez was arrested after a female student came to police stating Hernandez had raped her in a parked car at the local high school. The female student had gone to her car to catch up on homework while Hernandez ditched his class to accompany her. While in the car, Hernandez was reported to have sexually forced himself on the girl, later admitting it and apologizing via social media.

First degree rape

The 18 year old teen, who is legally an adult but more than likely still a senior in high school, was booked into Utah County Jail for rape, a first degree felony. According to Utah Code 76-5-402, “A person commits rape when the actor has sexual intercourse with another person without the victim’s consent.” First degree felony rape is punishable by five years to life in prison as well as a lifetime on the Sex Offender Registry.

No means no

Photo by: GovernmentZA

In an effort to fight today’s rape culture, it is imperative to teach teens that although rape is common, it should not be normalized. It is a criminal offense that can physically, mentally, and emotionally harm the victim for years. While teens may be constantly fighting sexual tensions brought on by raging hormones, they must understand that when it comes to sex, no means no; no consent means no. Teens must be taught early the lifelong consequences for the victim including depression and PTSD as well as punishment for the perpetrator including lengthy prison sentences and a permanent record of sexual violence. For more information on legal repercussions stemming from rape or sexual abuse charges, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Utah Teenager Pretends to Be a Woman Online – Obtains Nude Photos from Young Boys

A 19 year old Utah teenager was arrested after police discovered the teen was pretending to be an woman online in an attempt to obtain nude photos from young boys.

Not a filter

Photo by: David Burillo

Several young boys were reported to have sent nude photos of themselves via social media after being requested to do so by a very attractive woman named “Jessica Ford”. Unknown to the young juveniles, “Jessica Ford” was in fact a 19 year old teenage boy named James Robert Louis Wood who was using random pictures of a woman to gain the boys trust. Wood pretended to be “Jessica Ford” and sent pornographic photos of a woman to the boys, asking them to give pictures of themselves in return; which they did. Over the course of two months, Wood had obtained nude photos from at least eleven young boys. Wood then shared these pictures at school and even sent some to one of the victim’s siblings.

Sexual exploitation of a minor

Woods was charged with dealing harmful materials to a minor and for multiple counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. Utah Code 76-5b-201 states “A person is guilty of sexual exploitation of a minor when the person:

(i) knowingly produces, possesses, or possesses with intent to distribute child pornography; or
(ii) intentionally distributes or views child pornography ( . . . )”.

“Each minor depicted in the child pornography [and] each time the same minor is depicted in different child pornography” it is considered a separate defense. Wood is facing twelve second degree felonies for sexual exploitation of a minor and ten third degree felonies for dealing harmful material to a minor.

Hefty charges for serious crimes

Photo by: houstondwiPhotos mp

So far nothing has been disclosed stating Wood’s intent with the pictures. He may have been posing as a woman and collecting nudes from the boys for his own sexual gratification or it may have been done as a prank; something he could show off at school or used to torment a sibling of one of the boys. Regardless, Wood’s is facing substantial fines and several years in prison and an even longer duration of time on the National Sex Offender Registry. Anyone facing charges related to child pornography is encouraged to seek a reputable criminal defense attorney before appearing in court.

Utah Sexting Laws

With the majority of Utah kids having their first cell phone by age 10-12, it is important that parents discuss sexting laws and how they apply to minors.

Utah Sexting Laws
Photo by: Summer Skyes 11

Electronic dirty talk

One practice that continues to rise in popularity among Utah teens is sexting. According to dictionary.com, sexting is defined as “the sending of sexually explicit photos, images, text messages, or e-mails by using a cell phone or other mobile device.” While many teens get away with sexting time and time again, it is against the law and will result in criminal penalties if they are caught.

Utah sexting laws

Currently every state has a law that criminalizes sexting that includes images of minors, although many states group sexting in with child pornography or sexual exploitation of a minor. There are three laws in the Utah State Code that teens should be aware of before they send, receive, or share explicit images or videos of other teens.

Sexual exploitation of a minor

According to Utah Code 76-5b-201, “(1) A person is guilty of sexual exploitation of a minor: when the person:

(i) knowingly produces, possesses, or possesses with intent to distribute child pornography; or

(ii) intentionally distributes or views child pornography; ( . . . )

Sexual exploitation of a minor is a second degree felony and charges for sexual exploitation of a minor can be multiplied depending on how many minors are depicted and/or how many times the same minor appears in different pictures or videos.

Giving explicit material to minors

Photo by: Leo Hildalgo
Photo by: Leo Hildalgo

Utah Code 76-10-1206 warns “(1)A person is guilty of dealing in material harmful to minors when, knowing or believing that a person is a minor, or having negligently failed to determine the proper age of a minor, the person intentionally:

(a) distributes or offers to distribute, or exhibits or offers to exhibit, to a ( . . . ), any material harmful to minors;

(b) produces, performs, or directs any performance, before a minor ( . . . ) that is harmful to minors; or

(c) participates in any performance, before a minor ( . . . ) that is harmful to minors.

(2) (a) Each separate offense under this section committed by a person 18 years of age or older is a third degree felony ( . . . )

(b) Each separate offense under this section committed by a person 16 or 17 years of age is a class A misdemeanor.

(c) Each separate offense under this section committed by a person younger than 16 years of age is a class B misdemeanor.”

Distributing porn

Utah code 76-10-1203 states “(1) Any material or performance is pornographic if:

(a) The average person, applying contemporary community standards, finds that, taken as a whole, it appeals to prurient interest in sex;

(b) It is patently offensive in the description or depiction of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, sadomasochistic abuse, or excretion; and

(c) Taken as a whole it does not have serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”

If someone shares or otherwise distributes or attempts to distribute pornographic material, adults 18 and older may face a third degree felony for each item of pornographic material shared or produced while 16-17 year olds face a class A misdemeanor, and under 16 year olds face a class B misdemeanor.

Photo by: Maurizio Pesce
Photo by: Maurizio Pesce

What’s posted on the internet stays on the internet

With so many options to “delete” content shared, too many teens have the false sense of security that they can share a picture or video briefly and never have to worry about it again. Unfortunately, what’s posted on the internet stays on the internet. Besides other individuals who screenshot or otherwise save things they’ve been sent online, the internet has a way of somehow storing embarrassing or incriminating pictures forever. It is important to warn teens that sexually explicit images or videos that are shared can resurface and that type of content will result in criminal charges.

Utah Teenager Arrested For First Degree Sodomy of a 3 Year old

A 14 year old teenager from Cedar City Utah was arrested for sodomy for sexually abusing his 3 year old relative.

Sexual abuse of a family member

Sodomy on a Child
Photo by: Matt Walker

The allegations of sodomy on a child stem from an incident that took place in the early part of December 2016 where the 14 year old teenager sodomized a 3 year old who was related to the teen, but not a living in the same home. The teen was charged with first degree sodomy on a child and referred to 5th District Juvenile Court.

First degree sodomy on a child

Utah Code 76-5-403.1 states “a person commits sodomy upon a child if the actor engages in any sexual act upon or with a child who is under the age of 14, involving the genitals or anus of the actor or the child and the mouth or anus of either person, regardless of the sex of either participant.” Sodomy on a child is a first degree felony.

No slap on the wrist for juvenile offenders

Many parents believe that when a crime is committed by a minor, the courts will show leniency or “go easier” on a juvenile. This is not always the case. In many instances, especially those involving first degree felonies, end up with the juvenile being charged as an adult. This is especially common in cases against 16-17 year old minors.

Juvenile defense attorney

If the Cedar City teenager in this case was tried as an adult for sodomy on a child, he would be facing imprisonment of 25 years to life or life without parole if the sexual abuse caused any serious bodily injury to the victim. If convicted as a minor he may still be incarcerated in juvenile detention until he reaches the age of 21. Either case would end in the boy being incarcerated before he is even old enough to drive and throughout at least the rest of his teen years. It is always best to consult with a juvenile defense attorney regarding any charges against minors, to obtain the best possible outcome with more treatment and less time behind bars.