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.

Knife Wielding Utah Teen Charged With Aggravated Assault after Defending Sibling

A knife wielding Eagle Mountain Utah teenager was charged with aggravated assault after defending his younger sibling from abuse.

Violence for violence

The 16 year old teen who has not been named due to his age was placed into a juvenile detention center after he stabbed his 18 year old brother five times with a knife. The younger teen was trying to intervene to defend his 14 year old sister from their older brother, Steven Johnston, after an argument between the girl and Johnston escalated. Reports state that Johnston began physically assaulting the 14 year old girl when the 16 year old brother came to her aid, using a knife to wound the 18 year old sibling and thereby ceasing the assault on the younger sister.

Charges for both brothers

18 year old Johnston was flown to the hospital to be treated for his wounds and upon his release, will face misdemeanor charges for assaulting his younger sister. Meanwhile, the 16 year old brother is facing felony aggravated assault for using a knife to defend his sister against their older sibling. According to Utah Code 76-5-103, “Aggravated assault in an actor’s conduct that is:
i. an attempt, with unlawful force or violence, to do bodily injury to another; ( . . . )
ii. a threat, accompanied by a show of immediate force or violence, to do bodily injury to another; or
iii. an act, committed with unlawful force or violence, that causes bodily injury to another or creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another; and
that includes the use of:
i. a dangerous weapon ( . . . );
iii. other means or force likely to produce death or serious bodily injury.”

No criminal intent

More than likely, the teen did not have plans on assaulting his older brother with a knife that day. In the heat of the moment however, it may have been difficult for him to think of anything other than protecting his sister from harm. It is difficult to ask anyone, especially a minor, to think and act rationally in stressful situations. In hindsight, the teen may have been able to stop the abuse from the 18 year old brother without using a weapon. There is also the chance the abuse could have continued to escalate, further jeopardizing the safety of the little sister. The 16 year old Utah teen chose to ensure the safety of his sister, and may now face up to 15 years in prison. Any minors who are facing charges following a rash decision during a stressful situation or after defending another person from harm, contact a juvenile defense attorney to discuss the defense options related to the case.

Criminal Defamation Charges for Creating Fake Social Media Accounts

Using the internet to slander or hurt another person such as creating face social media accounts may result in teens facing criminal defamation charges.

Tech age

Photo by: Summer Skyes 11

Much of the communications going on between teenagers takes place over electronic devices through the use of text messaging as well as social media apps including Instagram, SnapChat, and Facebook. Often when things go sour, teens will take to the internet to simply vent and sometimes to retaliate on those who wronged them. Long ago were the days of whispering gossip in the school halls, as now everything is done from a teen’s cell phone. Malicious posts, IM’s, and even seconds long messages can spread like wildfire on social media, causing a lot of damage in its wake.

Fake social media accounts

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One very damaging way that teens may lash out at one another online is by creating fake social media accounts. These fake social media accounts are created to look as though they belong to the other person, leaving the begrudged peer open to ruin the other’s online reputation. Fake social media accounts are simple to set up and usually free as well. All that is needed is an email address which is also simple to obtain and a fake name, or the exact name of the detested teen. Photos can be easily stolen from the profiles of online accounts and teens then have a way to get revenge on those they loathe.

Digital footprint

Photo by: G =]

What happens on the internet stays on the internet and leaves a digital footprint there as well. Although social media accounts and email servers don’t require identification and can be created using phony information, law enforcement has ways to tie these malicious accounts back to the person that created them. When online communications are being spread at another’s expense, the aggressor could face criminal defamation charges.

Criminal defamation

Criminal Defamation
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Utah Code 76-9-404 states: “A person is guilty of criminal defamation if he knowingly communicates to any person orally or in writing [or online] any information which he knows to be false and knows will tend to expose any other living person to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule. Criminal defamation is a class B misdemeanor”, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine up to $1,000. Additionally, if any personal information about a minor is shared on the fake social media account without permission, the accused may also face a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,500. Teens who are facing criminal charges for publicly slandering another online are encouraged to immediately seek legal counsel with their parents.

Pool Hopping and Trespassing Charges

Pool hopping is a popular nighttime activity among Utah teenagers, however it can lead to trespassing charges or serious injury.

Pool hopping

Pool Hopping
Photo by: Andy Blackledge

Pool hopping consists of a small to large group of friends who hop from one pool to another, typically late at night. This is done without permission from the owners of the pool and can take place at hotels, community clubs, private backyard pools, or all of the above. One of the goals of pool hopping is to see how many different pools the group can hop before the night is through or until they get caught.

Busted

One of the known thrills of pool hopping is the possibility of getting busted by the pool owners. More often than not, when the pool hoppers are discovered, the owners of the pool simply chastise the youngsters and nothing else. Those kids who get off with a simple warning however should consider themselves lucky. Others who are not as fortunate end up stunned when the pool owners decide to press trespassing charges.

Trespassing

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In the state of Utah, pools are required to be located behind fences that are secured with a lock in order to protect small children who may wander near the open water. Since the pools are so obviously enclosed, the do not require “no trespassing” signs. Teens that make the mistake of climbing over fences or otherwise unlawfully gain entry to a locked pool building are trespassing, even if they do not plan on doing anything other than swim. Utah Code 76-6-206 states: “A person is guilty of criminal trespass if ( . . . ):

“knowing the person’s ( . . . ) presence is unlawful, the person enters or remains on ( . . . ) property to which notice against entering is given by:

(i) personal communication to the person by the owner or someone with apparent authority to act for the owner;

(ii) fencing or other enclosure obviously designed to exclude intruders; or

(iii) posting of signs reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders; ( . . . )”

Trespassing in a pool without permission is a class B misdemeanor unless the pool is located within a home; in that case the charge would be increased to a class A misdemeanor.

Poor choice of summer activity

Photo by: Oregon Department of Transportation

Most teens that go pool hopping are unaware of the legal implications that can result of their nighttime activity or of the possible danger involved. Not only can teens face serious trespassing charges, they put themselves in harm’s way by using a body of water at night when it is more difficult for others to notice if someone in the group is in distress. Teens are encouraged to avoid this criminal summer fun and instead seek permission from pool owners if they have a desire to swim. For those who are already facing criminal charges for pool hopping, contact a juvenile defense attorney regarding legal defense for trespassing charges.

Fight Nights Remain Popular among Teens and Everyone is talking about it

As a popular, yet absurd way to pass the time, fight nights remain popular among Utah teens and everyone is talking about it, even parents.

Boredom buster

Fight Nights
Photo by: Milos Milosevic

Fight nights became popular after the 1999 film Fight Club that glorified organized violence as a fun activity to pass the time. Nearly two decades later, these violent get togethers continue to be a favorite pastime and the younger generation is keeping it going strong. A group of teens in southern Utah recently participated in a fight club as a way to kick off the summer during senior sunrise.

Organized violence

Most fight nights in Utah are at least somewhat organized as someone thinks enough of it to bring boxing gloves to a get together. There are many times when fight nights are well thought out and planned, with some events demanding an entrance fee to participate or view.

Physical injuries

While physical injury is expected, teens often don’t understand that fight nights don’t always end with a simple split lip or bloody nose. Concussions, knocked out teeth, and broken noses or other bones are common and can have unexpected recovery times and medical costs. Beyond physical injuries, these types of events can also damage a teen emotionally.

Emotional injuries

Photo by: Ian T. Macfarland
Photo by: Ian T. Macfarland

While some fight nights only see contestants fighting who desired to participate, others may involve someone calling another person out and putting them on the spot to fight or flee. Teens who originally had no intention to fight may feel pressured to participate to save themselves from being humiliated. Others who refuse or those who lose mercilessly may be publicly taunted and tormented by their peers.

Criminal charges for fight nights

If physical and emotional injuries aren’t enough to deter teens from participating in fight nights, maybe criminal charges will get their attention. Utah Code 63N-10-306 states that “Club fighting is prohibited. Any person who publicizes, promotes, conducts, or engages in a club fighting match is guilty of a class A misdemeanor.” Those charges could result in a year behind bars and a fine of up to $2,500. Parents who allow or even supervise their teens to participate in fight nights can also face criminal charges. As teens attempt to fill their summer with fun and exciting activities, it is important to discourage organized violence as a way to beat the summer boredom.