Thursday, February 12, 2004
Carmel on the Case: Crime And Consent
It's no surprise that many kids start experimenting with sex even before they can drive. But what most youngsters don't know is that sex under sixteen is illegal, and they can be labeled as sex offenders. Investigative Reporter Carmel Cafiero has more in tonight's Special Assignment Report - "Crime and Consent".
(WSVN) -- For today's teenagers, being a kid can be anything but young and innocent.
For many, it is a time of their first sexual experience.
Jackie says, "We was in there, we had sex in there. It was not the first time we do it."
Alex and Jackie are fourteen years old.
With their mothers on hand, they talked with us not just about having sex... But about having sex in school.
Jackie says, "Upstairs there's a room. We went into that room and we did it again."
The kids say they were thirteen the first time they were intimate.
Mother Maria Pineda says, "I was horrified."
She adds, "They don't know better. They don't know better, they're kids for God's sake...they're 13, 14 years old."
What many parents and their teenagers also don't know is...sex under the age of 16 is illegal...no matter if it is consensual or not. And depending on the circumstances, a teenager could end up with a life long label of sex offender.
Sherri Zack says, "Unless both parties are over the age of 16, it is not lawful to engage in sexual activity."
Sherri Zack is a Broward County Prosecutor.
She says the law --- when applied to predators is effective.
But children are unaware of the consequences.
Sherri says, "We tell children not to drink and drive. We tell them don't do drugs. And no one tells them this is illegal."
For teens under sixteen - felony charges are possible.
Carmel asks, "Did you know that?" (shake their heads no)
Maria says, "Wow, I did not know that."
Carmel asks, "What if your son were charged?
Maria says, "I would die."
The Chavez family of Coconut Creek is suffering that agony.
Twins Aaron and Gonzalo were arrested for having sex with a willing eleven year-old neighbor when they were fifteen.
AttorneyRalph Hagans says, "The initial charge was a sexual battery on a child under twelve by a person under eighteen."
Attorney Ralph Hagans says the boys could have spent more than twenty years in prison and been labeled sex offenders.
Their pictures would end up on the internet and their chances of building professional careers --- severely limited.
Carmel asks, "So their lives would have been ruined?"
AttorneyHagens says, "In my opinion, yes."
Hagans convinced authorities to reduce the charges. The twins will spend about a year in separate juvenile facilities...and be able to start their adult lives with a clean slate.
AttorneyHagens says, "They participated with somebody who was also very willing to be sexually active."
But under the law, a twelve year-old can not give consent.
The twins' father Gonzalo Chavez Sr. says his sons were never in trouble before and did not know what they did was illegal.
Gonzalo says, "The problem is nobody know this law, nobody knows."
Assistant Public DefenderJim Wells says, "In the cases that I'm aware of it's almost always the boy that gets charged."
Assistant Public Defender Jim Wells also warns teens they don't have to go "all the way" to get in trouble with the law.
He says,"I mean it could be touching, basically making out, things that is common activity - they've been prosecuted and it's a third degree felony."
At the Chavez home, the twin's room is as they left it...waiting for their return.
Yamel Chavez says, "Sometimes they will call me crying..."
Crying over crime and consent...
Sister Yamel hopes her family's heartbreak serves as a warning to others about the legal dangers of underage sex.
Now, we know the laws can be confusing, so if you have any questions, log onto wsvn-dot-com.
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