In recent posts, we’ve discussed whether juvenile sex offenders should be afforded adult punishments and subjected to adult criminal trials. The consequences of prosecuting a juvenile as an adult can be life-long, resulting in a criminal record, potential sex offender registration, and residency and employment obstacles.

Those issues are put to real-life application in the case of a recent Florida teenager who is charged with a sex crime for an apparently mutual, consensual relationship with a classmate four years her junior. The two girls allegedly met during lunch and while playing on the same sports team. When the younger girl’s parents discovered the relationship, they went to the local authorities.

The alleged crime has garnered national attention because of the same-sex status of the relationship. A spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union has defended the girl, and an online petition by the advocacy group Change.org has more than 270,000 signatures. Nevertheless, local Florida officials are proceeding with the case.

Under state law, anyone under the age of 16 is deemed incapable of voluntary consenting to sexual activity. In addition, the older girl’s age of 18 technically makes her an adult. For these reasons, prosecutors might believe their criminal case is sound.

Perhaps in response to the public outcry, prosecutors did offer a plea agreement of child abuse. However, the girl refused the officer. As it stands, she is headed to criminal trial, where she will have to defend against two felony counts. The specific charge: lewd and lascivious battery. If convicted, the girl might face up to 15 years in prison.

Source: cnn.com, “Florida teen rejects plea deal in controversial same-sex case,” Ashley Fantz, May 24, 2013