August 18, 2010
ATLANTA -- A recent Texas Supreme Court decision which held that a child under the legal age of consent cannot be deemed criminally liable for the crime of prostitution could be a turning point in fixing a flaw in laws in many other states, Georgia State Universitry College of Law Professor Jonathan Todres writes in an opinion piece published July 12 in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Todres writes: "Do you remember being 13 years old? Picture your 13-year-old self and imagine someone older and seemingly much cooler taking an interest in you. It’s initially great. Then imagine it all goes terribly wrong. He becomes abusive and forces you to have sex with older men so he can make money. Terrified and repeatedly raped by "customers," you reach a police officer one day. What happens next might surprise you. The handcuffs come out, and you are arrested for prostitution.
"At 13, though the law says you are too young to consent to sex, once money is involved, even if it’s paid to a pimp, the law now says you are mature enough to be considered criminally responsible."
In almost every state -- New York, Connecticut, Washington, and Michigan are now the only exceptions -- a child under the legal age of consent could be charged with prostitution. That changed on June 18, when the Texas Supreme Court decided a case in which a 13-year-old who had been living with her 32-year-old "boyfriend" was charged with prostitution after being arrested by an undercover officer. Noting the "special vulnerability of children," the court held that a child under the legal age of consent cannot be deemed criminally liable for the crime of prostitution.
"Let’s hope the Texas Supreme Court’s decision is the turning point," Todres writes. "If we deem children below a certain age to be incapable of consenting to sex, then money paid to a pimp cannot change that. This flaw in the law must be corrected in every state in the land. And while we’re at it, let’s actually do something to prevent these violations of our children from occurring in the first place."