Dating someone younger than 18
Michigan has adopted similar legislation, and Illinois and California groups are pushing for those laws, too.
Benda’s father, James Benda, said teens convicted of these crimes face an uphill battle when looking for jobs and going to college because of the social taboos of sex offenders.
5, 2015: Samuel Benda, now 21, was charged in 2011 with possession of child pornography for having a nude photo of his 17-year-old high school girlfriend on his cellphone, taken on the night of their prom.
Benda pleaded guilty to the charge in November 2012. The charge was dismissed in July 2014 after he successfully completed two years of probation.
But when the age difference is bigger, there are other things to consider.
An age difference of a few years may not seem like an issue, but things such as expectations, priorities and general interests can change quickly as you get older.
Teens and young adults sometimes aren’t aware of the possible criminal consequences of dating someone underage, attorneys say.
What seems like a high school romance can lead to a felony conviction and having to register as a sexual offender.
Florida adopted a “Romeo and Juliet” law in 2007, allowing some people to petition the court to forgo registering as a sex offender.
Benda didn’t question his 17-year-old girlfriend when she took a naked picture of herself in the mirror on his cellphone. “I didn’t think.” Now, her former boyfriend is facing serious consequences.
The photo is a reflection of her and Benda, his hands covering her body. The girl later told a Dakota County judge that she had forgotten about the picture until police came to her house and asked about it. Benda was convicted of felony child-pornography possession and is awaiting sentencing.
If the younger partner is 18 or older, he or she is free to date who they please.
On the other hand, when it’s someone under the age of 18 and a legal adult, the romantic relationship can be downright illegal and put the older partner at risk of jail or prison, and mandatory sex offender registration.