Don’t stand so close to me: Sex crimes in Virginia

Several state laws deem a person a "sex offender" after specific criminal convictions. In Virginia, a "sex offender" must register with the Virginia State Police. This information is kept on a Sex Offender Registry, and the offender must re-register for years - possibly for life. Now, the Virginia State Crime Commission is considering legislation that would address a tricky issue involving sexual relationships in the context of school. Changes in the law could subject some consenting adults to the repercussions of the registry.

Legislators are concerned about what happens when two high school students engage in sexual relations and are only two years apart. If one person is an 18-year old adult and the other is a 16-year old minor, should the older individual be subject to sex offender penalties?

Moreover, now consider a scenario where the older individual graduates, returns as a teacher or substitute, and rekindles the relationship with the younger person (now 18, an adult). Should this be illegal? Again, should the older individual be deemed a sex offender?

Some believe that even if the high school student is 18, this should be considered a sex offense. Why? In this situation, the older person is in a position of authority, where consent may not be sufficiently voluntary.

The argument is that most parents would challenge this kind of romantic relationship - even if it were consensual. Under current Virginia laws, this is considered illegal only when the student is younger than 18 years of age. At least 11 other states have created mandates against student-teacher relationships - regardless of consent and age.

The commission is formulating a criminal statute that addresses this grey area. According to sources, the commission seeks to create legislation that is fair and protects the best interests of the student.

Sex offenses in Virginia

While the aforementioned scenarios may seem rare, they can occur. For those advocating the proposed law, it is important to protect the student. However, should such a situation among consenting adults be considered a criminal offense? Even worse, should the teacher be considered a sex offender under the law?

Several actions in the state are considered illegal sexual acts. They include:

  • Statutory rape (also known as sex with minors)
  • Possession, production, or distribution of child pornography
  • Indecent exposure
  • Internet solicitation of minors
  • Sexual assault and sexual battery

While these and a few additional sexual acts are considered illegal in Virginia, it is important to recognize that none of the above criminal offenses concern two consenting adults.

It may take time before the law is officially implemented, if ever. Nevertheless, if the proposal becomes a reality, it could create further limitations on sexual acts within the ambit of the law.

If you have been accused of a sex crime, contact a professional experienced in criminal laws and procedures. A criminal defense lawyer can address the details of your case.