Charged as Sex Offender and Victim

From The Denver Post:

Salt Lake City – Utah Supreme Court justices acknowledged Tuesday that they were struggling to wrap their minds around the concept that a 13-year-old girl could be both an offender and a victim for the same act – in this case, having consensual sex with her 12-year-old boyfriend.

The Ogden, Utah, girl was put in this odd position because she was found guilty of violating a state law that prohibits sex with someone under age 14. She also was the victim in the case against her boyfriend, who was found guilty of the same violation by engaging in sexual activity with her.

“The only thing that comes close to this is dueling,” said Associate Chief Justice Michael Wilkins, noting that two people who take 20 paces and then shoot could each be considered both victim and offender.

And Chief Justice Christine Durham wondered if the state Legislature had intended the “peculiar consequence” that a child would have the simultaneous status of a protected person and an alleged perpetrator under the law.

The comments came in oral arguments on a motion asking the high court to overturn the finding of delinquency – the legal term in juvenile court for a conviction – against Z.C., who became pregnant after she and her boyfriend engaged in sex in October 2003.

State authorities filed delinquency petitions in July 2004, alleging that each had committed sexual abuse of a child, a second-degree felony if committed by an adult.

The girl appealed the petition, saying her constitutional right to be treated equally under the law had been violated.

The headline from the Denver Post only labels the girl as being the sex offender and victim but since the boy was also charged and is even younger than the girl the headline could have included him. The lawyer for the case says it best though:

Randall Richards, the girl’s attorney, argued that prosecuting children under a law meant to protect them is illogical.

“A child (victim) cannot also be a perpetrator in the exact same act,” Richards said.

The Utah Supreme Court will issue a ruling later.