Imagine this scenario: you get a call from your son's school telling you that he and his friend were involved in an incident on the playground. The two had been roughhousing and at one point your son had sat on some of his classmates' faces with his bare bottom.
Initially, you merely brush it off as boys being boys and punish your son. But the incident soon becomes something much bigger and you find yourself in court, fighting to keep your son's name off the state's sex offender registry for the rest of his life. Though this situation may seem far-fetched, it has become reality for two New Jersey boys and his families.
The incident occurred almost three years ago. Two boys were on the playground and sat on two classmates' faces. As a result, the two boys were charged with criminal sexual contact because the judge determined that the teens intended to humiliate their classmates. The penalty: lifetime registration on the sex offender registry.
The ruling attracted national attention as many people were shocked at the punishment. Even though the two boys' actions did indeed fit the requirements for criminal sexual contact, branding them as sex offenders for the rest of their lives has permanent implications that could negatively impact their future. Even the Appellate Court noted the severity of the punishment after recently upholding the lower court's ruling.
Two boys who thought it would be funny to sit on someone's face will now have to deal with being labeled a sex offender. This means that every time they move or change jobs, they have to update the sex offender registry.
In addition, being labeled a sex offender can impact their lives both professionally and personally. It may be more difficult for them to find a job or a place to live. In many instances, sex offenders cannot live within a certain distance of places like schools, community centers, and parks.
Given the conduct, is the punishment too extreme?
Source: North Jersey online, "Teens in horseplay incident must register as sex offenders," Maryann Spoto, 20 July 2011