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Activist group in Michigan says the law unfairly punishes teens

Having a felony charge on a person's record can seriously affect his or her future. From not being able to vote to serving time in prison, the punishments for a felony are varied and can damage a person's reputation. Some people say that some of these penalties are too harsh, overreaching and ineffective. In Michigan, for example, an activist group is attempting to revise the laws that punish teenagers for having a sexually consensual relationship.

Recently, a Royal Oak, Michigan, young man served over six years in prison for having a sexual relationship with his girlfriend. She was 14-years-old at the time, and therefore considered a minor. In court documents, she has stated that she should not be labeled a victim by the courts. Their relationship was consensual and they were both very much in love.

The young man not only had to serve time in prison, he was also ordered to go on the sex-offender registry. This level of punishment was inappropriate, according to the young man's mother. While he served his time in jail, his mother founded a reform group called Michigan Citizens for Justice that aims to minimize penalties for the type of relationship her son had. They should not have to go on the sex-offender registry. Instead of prison, a teen should go to counseling.

The option of counseling is important. According to reports, a juvenile sex offender is highly unlikely to reoffend. Additionally, a teenager is arguably still a child. Children can change and grow. The laws, activist groups claim, need to reflect that.

After petitioning two separate judges, the man has been removed from the sex-offender registry. He will, however, be considered a convicted felon for the rest of his life.

State laws regarding this offense vary widely and the federal rules are broadly defined. In a case like this, seeking help immediately can greatly help to have charges reduced or minimized.

Source: The Daily Beast, "Should Teens Be Jailed for Sex Offenses? A Growing Parental Rebellion Says No," Abigail Pesta, Jan. 25, 2012

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