Georgia legislators are considering a plan to toughen sentences for sex offenders who assault children, but critics say some children themselves could be caught in the proposed law’s net – for at least 25 years. The bill also might send some teens who engage in consensual sex to prison, critics say. Teenagers 13 through 16 who are prosecuted in adult court for rape or aggravated crimes of sodomy, child molestation, and sexual battery would face a mandatory sentence of at least 25 years. “I’m very scared for kids with this legislation,” said Beth Reimels of Emory University law school. If the bill passes, a youth of 13, 14, 15, or 16 who engages in mutual sexual activity with a child under 14 could be prosecuted for aggravated sexual crimes, tried as an adult and face a minimum 25-year sentence. The age of the younger child makes the crime an “aggravated” one.
Franklin E. Zimring, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of “An American Travesty: Legal Responses to Adolescent Sexual Offending,” called the bill as it could affect teens “a penal policy nervous breakdown.” “It takes my breath away,” he said. Teens “do some very stupid things sexually that do not predict any patterns of adult sexual danger,” he said. The bill perpetuates the idea that teen sex offenders “are just junior editions of adult offenders, and that is just demonstrably not true.”