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Lifetime Sex Offender Registration for 18-Year-Old Who Chatted Online with 15-Year-Old

Actually having sex would just be a misdemeanor.

ComputerTaras Bodnar / DreamstimeNew Hampshire's state Supreme Court has upheld a young man's harsh sentence—which includes lifetime registry on the sex offender list—for propositioning a 15-year-old girl over the internet.

The man, Bailey Serpa, was 18 at the time. According to New Hampshire law, Serpa would have been guilty of a mere misdemeanor had the two actually had sex. But online solicitation of a minor is considered a felony.

Serpa appealed the sentence on grounds that it was "unconstitutional and grossly disproportional," The New Hampshire Union Ledger reports. Last month, he lost in court:

The ruling is the latest chapter in a series of cases that have highlighted New Hampshire's computer-facilitated sex law, which critics say is outdated and wielded too freely in cases involving teenagers.

"The laws were enacted to prevent young people from becoming close with old people because there was concern they were using their age to become close, groom them, and convince them they were in love," said Wendy Walsh, a professor and researcher at the University of New Hampshire's Crimes against Children Research Center. "You need to have something on the books, but these cases are so complex and are so individual and have so much variation that ideally there would be more context behind some of the laws."

It should be clear that when legislators first criminalized online solicitation of minors in 2008, their intention was to prevent much older people from grooming kids for sex. Teens expressing sexual interest in each other isn't weird or abnormal, and it certainly shouldn't be a crime. If the court won't intervene, then the legislature should hurry up and fix its mistake.

Keep in mind that there's little evidence the sex offender registry helps keep people safe. On the other hand, there's plenty of reason to believe it shatters the lives of the people who end up on it: They face serious difficulty finding housing, securing jobs, and interacting with young people.

Photo Credit: Taras Bodnar

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  • Get To Da Chippah||

    Live free or die?

  • ||

    "The laws were enacted to prevent young people from becoming close with old people because there was concern they were using their age to become close, groom them, and convince them they were in love,"

    I'm not the only one who read the complete ambiguity of this sentence as a measure to prevent the elderly from being groomed by young people, right?

  • lafe.long||

    You read it right.

    Teen gold diggers are apparently a thing.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Teens expressing sexual interest in each other isn't weird or abnormal...

    The perverts.

  • gphx||

    If the danger of people on a sex offender registry reoffending is really so great they shouldn't have been released in the first place. If it isn't they should be left alone instead of suffering a lifetime of double jeopardy and conditions that are probably impossible to fulfill. Otherwise they spend their life being punished for a future crime they have yet to commit of which they are guilty until proven innocent by dying.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    New Hampshire's state Supreme Court has upheld a young man's harsh sentence—which includes lifetime registry on the sex offender list—for propositioning a 60 year old man posing as a 15-year-old girl over the internet.

    Don't ask how I know this. Not important.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    He was actually chatting with BUCS?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I'm 28.

  • Homple||

    Anyone can avoid the consequences of sexting with underaged people by not sexting with underaged people.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Something something Title IX.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Especially since underaged people never lie about their age on the internet.

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    "On the internet, no one knows you're a dog."

    -Famous New Yorker Cartoon

  • ||

    Anyone can avoid the consequences of sexting with underaged people by not sexting with underaged people.

    If the modulus of their phone number, sans hyphens, with 18 is less than 18, you know they're under the legal age of consent and you shouldn't be sexting them. Everyone else is of the legal age of consent and is OK to sext with. Anybody wondering why you keep the same phone number even though you pass from 17-19 is a pedophile and should be locked up.

    Also, you don't have to stop at a stop sign without a white border.

  • Eidde||

    That's a good argument, let's break all criminals on the wheel and they have no right to complain because they could have simply avoided committing the crime in the first place.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Half your age plus 7.
    Whoops.

  • E. Kline||

    He was 18 asshole.

  • ||

    So much for 'live free or die'.

    Jesus.

  • Rigelsen||

    I wonder when New Hampshire's gonna get around to changing their state motto. "Live free or die" seems so behind the times for an increasingly New Englandy progressive paradise.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    The should just change it to "Live or die". Then a few more years can pass and change it to "Die".

  • VOTE MILES||

    If sexuality can't be licensed and regulated, it should be outlawed altogether.

  • Damon Phelps||

    Ok, so we should wait for predators to rape juveniles before we prosecute them. Ok, meanwhile adult predators are goming naive young children via social media. What is the cutoff? Legally culpable for a criminal offense? 18, perhaps? I say yes.

  • E. Kline||

    Yes, we should wait for crimes to actually be committed before we prosecute them.

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    Wait?!?!?!

    Now, that's just crazy talk.

  • Damon Phelps||

    All I see are arguments or excuses why it's ok to text obscenity or pictures of genitalia to other people, kids or otherwise. When has that become the norm. What happened to being a gentleman and meeting a person before becoming involved?

  • Cloudbuster||

    By all means let's punish people for life because they don't comport themselves by your standards of propriety.

  • Oli||

    People have fucked each other since the dawn of time. Societal restrictions only apply to the others. It's all just a big farce, and always has been.

  • General_Tso||

    Perhaps the kid 'identified as a 15 year old that day. Who are we to judge?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    There is nothing in the Constitution that allows the government to require registries and other punishments/limitations to where people can live after they have completed their criminal sentence.

    If the state wants to control the actions of people keep them in prison, keep them on probation, or keep them on parole.

  • swampwiz||

    Wow, just 4 generations ago, my great, great grandmother was married at age 15.

  • swampwiz||

    And Jerry Lee Lewis married a 13 year old! (But that was Mississippi, LOL.)

  • Eric T||

    When is that whole "Free State Project" going to kick-in?

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