Charges can range from fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct all the way up to an automatic felony if it’s proven there was sexual penetration.It could mean jail time, it could mean having to register as a sex offender for 10 years.
But the eyes of law enforcement officials do not see those shades of gray quite as well; the law is black and white.
And when those laws are broken — even unknowingly — it stops becoming a parental decision and starts becoming a legal matter. The state has defined an appropriate age of consent, and under Minnesota statute, people cannot have any type of sexual contact with a child under the age of 16 if they are more than 24 months older than them.“Sexual contact is also defined as breasts and inner thigh areas,” said Becker County Investigator Kathy Nguyen, who says the level of charges is determined by how far those teens go.
Emotional damage aside, there are a lot of illegal things happening there, starting with the teenage girl.“She could possibly get charged with distributing it,” said Miller, who says the way the law is currently written, even though it is a picture of herself, it is still child pornography and she is still distributing it.“And the boyfriend would not only be in possession of child pornography, but if he sends it out to his friends, he would then also be distributing it,” said Miller, who goes on to say that the friends who receive it could potentially also be charged with possession of child pornography if it’s found on their devices.
Warning Local law enforcement officials know that for every one case of teens illegally “dating” that gets to them, there are exponentially more they won’t see.“But we’re getting into the prom season, and we just want people to be aware because there are a lot of potential issues there,” said Glander, “You could have a 10th grader who isn’t 16 yet dating a senior who is 17 or 18.
If they are 17 or younger, he says there is a little more leeway for the court and the prosecutor to try to resolve the matter without it being something that sticks on the teen’s record forever — something like having to register as a predatory offender.