General Question

tinyfaery's avatar

Why is it that a 14 year old cannot consent to sex but can be tried and sentenced for a crime as an adult?

Asked by tinyfaery (40906points) September 15th, 2008

What is the magic cut-off line that determines personal responsibility, culpability and the ability to make “adult” decisions? Why does our country believe a 14 year old is culpable for a decision to kill but not to love?

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47 Answers

augustlan's avatar

Good point, tiny! Along the same lines, why is an 18 year old allowed to risk his life or take another’s (in the military), but not allowed to have a beer?

Melonking's avatar

Well…. I would say It’s because 14 year olds are not then most responsible of all ppl. Hence the fact they can be sentenced as an adult…. otherwise there would be allot of bad kids on the streets.

augustlan's avatar

Confusion has set in. Head hurts.

amandaafoote's avatar

I heart that they are trying to lower the drinking age back to 18, is this true? I think they should come up with that if you DO go into the military you should be allowed to drink at 18, due to the fact you’re obviously mature enough to handle it.

poofandmook's avatar

trying to look up “ppl” in the dictionary

Melonking's avatar

Where I live you can drink at 18 and anyone in the army is some naker who cant get a real job. I understand it is not this way in America thou.

augustlan's avatar

@melonking: What is a “naker”?

scamp's avatar

Let me answer your question with one of my own. If you had a 14 year old, would you say it’s fine for them to have sex?

Bri_L's avatar

@ tinyfaery – I think this is a great question. I was thinking more and more about this and wondering if it didn’t change depending on the circumstances. For instance to young for a parent is old enough for the courts. Science says old enough and capable based on controlled testing and samples but parents say no, but police say yes, as do the kids.

I think you hit it on the head tinyfaery, it is a magic cut off line

trudacia's avatar

Personally, I was practically the same person ages 14 – 19. I didn’t mature and really understand sex until I was in my 20’s. I still chose to have sex at 15….

Bri_L's avatar

I to find it interesting that you can die for your country but not have a drink

robmandu's avatar

I recall hearing that, if you’re on base and in uniform (or at least show military id), you don’t have a problem getting a alcoholic beverage. Is that still true?

Melonking's avatar

@augustlan A naker is a slang word for the sort of person that walks down the street in a white hoody and shouts things like “Waaa?” and “How ya doan bayy” Translation: “What? and “How are you doing boy”.

From what I know this culture only exists in Ireland.

augustlan's avatar

Thanks, melon.

syz's avatar

These are all artificial designations decided by society. Just a few generations ago in the US, 14 year olds were getting married and producing babies. Still are, in many parts of the world.

nikipedia's avatar

Great question, @tinyfaery, and nicely worded. I think the problem is that, obviously, there is no one magical cut-off point.

I think a situation that varies by person needs to….vary by person. Different people are going to have different capacities to be responsible and make good decisions at different ages (or at any age…), so it seems inappropriate to me to have a blanket, arbitrary cut-off that applies to all people equally.

That said, I think that if we do insist on having an arbitrary cut-off for practical purposes, the punishment needs to fit the crime and all the circumstances need to be taken into account. Sure, it might be fair to use the term “illegal” for a hypothetical 18-year-old to have sex with a hypothetical 15-year-old, but the justice system needs to be able to examine each individual case dispassionately and consider all the facts.

There is a WORLD of difference between two young people who are in a relationship and love each other very much and have sex, and an 18-year-old who finds an insecure, vulnerable girl and manipulates her insecurities to coerce her into having sex with him, and there are a thousand shades of grey in between. Go ahead and call the first situation “illegal” if you want, but does he actually deserve to be labeled a rapist? Doesn’t that discredit and undervalue situations in which someone was actually abused?

I wish @Harp would show up and solve this one…

Melonking's avatar

May I ask why you are asking this?

poofandmook's avatar

What if the 15 year old and 18 year old (who has now been labeled a sex offender) end up getting married? then what?

Melonking's avatar

I think your missing the point.

poofandmook's avatar

I’m actually not missing the point.

Melonking's avatar

Are we looking at the same point?

gailcalled's avatar

In the question about the 15 and 18 year olds, the 18 year old male “hit and ran.”

When I was 14, I was in 10th grade, living at home, having little or no adult responsibilities and rather spoiled. By 17.5, I was in college and at least leading a partially independent life.

poofandmook's avatar

I’m going off nikipedia’s post… sorry.. should have specified.

Melonking's avatar

Oh, ok well er carry on…

cyndyh's avatar

It is a good question. Either a 14 year old is responsible or they’re not. Having 14 year olds treated like adults in criminal cases is pretty new. I don’t think that should be done at all. I think there needs to be some middle ground like there is in many states for the age of consent.

tinyfaery's avatar

I’m asking because of a previous question.

If I had an intelligent, responsible daughter who had a boyfriend for a good period of time, and I believed the relationship was a positive in her life, and she decided she was ready, I would of course speak with her about all the repercussions, and support her decision. If she ended up thinking it was mistake, then she learns. That’s life.

sarapnsc's avatar

Some of the laws we have now are so messed up!

tinyfaery's avatar

@scamp Are you going to answer my question? I answered you.

Bri_L's avatar

@ tinyfaery – is there an age that, in your mind is to young? Or a combination that is to wide?

also, check my concession on the other link

scamp's avatar

Well, I can’t really answer your question because I am not a law maker. I could only guess at it just as you did to answer mine, because I don’t have first hand knowledge.

tinyfaery's avatar

I have no definitive answer, I just think that the laws governing statutory rape are too sweeping; there needs to be room to consider circumstance. But our criminal justice system does not allow for this. If even one person get’s labeled with a sex offender status for life for having consensual sex with the girl he loves, then the law is unjust.

I’m with nikipedia on this one.

@scamp Oh yeah. That “special knowledge” that comes with giving birth. ~ I could never understand what it’s like to be a 14 year old girl; after all, I never was one. Nor has my career given me the opportunity to interact with teenage girls, girls who were more likely to talk to me than their parents.

Bri_L's avatar

I agree with you and nikipedia that the laws need updating. as my other post indicates. I also think that what you indicated above is correct.

communication, above all, is best.

scamp's avatar

Not exactly. The “special knowledge” you refer to comes not just from giving birth, but from raising a child. Parenting is more than just interacting with a child and listening to their secrets. It’s acting in their best interest, even if it’s not the popular thing to do.

tinyfaery's avatar

I’m more aware of how a parent’s “guidance” and “best interests” can harm a child; they can, and do.

scamp's avatar

It seems we are both playing devi’s advocate on this topic. You for the child, and me for the parent. This is good. We are now looking on both sides of the coin.

allengreen's avatar

As a teenager I was fucking at 14, but as a father of 2 girls, just the thought of the question makes me horrified.

scamp's avatar

allengreen I think I may be falling in love!!

allengreen's avatar

(sound of me falling off my chair)

chyna's avatar

@poof – The situation of an 18 year old and 15 year old marrying after he was convicted of child molesting her, happened in my town. He has a record, he has to register on the sex offender list, but they have 2 children now. That was four years ago, but he will have to live with it forever. Im actually surprised he was allowed to bring up his children.

allengreen's avatar

where is that, Wasilla Alaska?

chyna's avatar

Charleston, WV

Harp's avatar

Most states have adopted “Romeo and Juliet” laws in recognition of the exact issues we’re discussing here. Classic statutory rape laws recognize no legal defense for sex between someone above and someone below the legally-defined age of consent; the act itself is sufficient grounds for conviction. This view is losing ground. “Romeo and Juliet” laws are a way for the courts to provide some legal recourse in these situations so that circumstances can be considered.

The exact provisions of these laws vary by state, but Texas’ law Section 22.011 is pretty representative. It provides an affirmative defense if all of the following conditions apply:

-the actor was fewer than 3 years older than the victim at the time of the offense,
-the victim was older than 14 years of age at the time of the offense,
-the actor was not at the time registered or required to register for life as a sex offender,
-the conduct did not constitute incest, and
-neither actor nor victim would commit bigamy by marrying the other (in other words, neither was married to a third person).

These laws in effect recognize that the idea of a “magic cut-off line” doesn’t make for good decisions in these cases.

cyndyh's avatar

@Harp: That seems completely reasonable to me. I knew such laws exited these days, but I didn’t know the specifics.

Bri_L's avatar

@Harp: thanks for that. I had no idea.

robmandu's avatar

Wow. A reasonable law for a tricky situation. Who’d’ve thunk such a thing possible? Now if we can only get ‘em set up in more places.

MissAnthrope's avatar

I don’t understand why a 14-year-old would get tried as an adult, other than in the case of them perpetrating a particularly heinous murder and the juvenile sentence doesn’t satisfy the authorities wanting to really throw the book at them. (New record, longest sentence EVAR?)

At 14, I had no real concept of how the world worked. I mean, I’m a smart girl and I thought I knew, but looking back, I realize just how much I was unaware. Part of me thinks it’s unfair to try the 14-year-old as an adult.. it’s pretty commonly accepted these days that the brain doesn’t stop developing until the early 20’s. The brain at 14 simply isn’t able to grasp certain concepts. The teen may understand there are consequences, but may not truly understand the depth and seriousness of the implications.

Also, teens are more easily influenced by various sources.. I can see that playing into the perpetration of some crimes.

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