More states are bucking the national crackdown on sex offenders by paring back punishment for teens who have consensual sex with underage partners, reports USA Today. Seven states have new laws that mean no prosecution for some teens or no requirement to register as a sex offender. States vary widely in how they prosecute consensual teen sex, which prosecutors refer to as “Romeo and Juliet” cases, but some remain tough on teens who are several years older than their partners. The legal age of consent varies from 14 to 18, depending on the state.
The issue has stirred debate recently through the Georgia case of a young man who is serving a 10-year sentence for receiving oral sex from a 15-year-old girl at a party when he was 17. The Georgia Supreme Court heard arguments Friday on whether to release him. Officials in some states say tough laws should be changed – as Georgia did last year – to focus on predators, not irresponsible teens. They say those teens need to be punished but labeling them sex offenders on public registries may do more harm than good. Among the states that have changed laws are Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Oregon, Florida, Indiana, Indiana and Connecticut.