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The Forum News Service does not always report on the specifics of juvenile cases, but local law enforcement officials say it is a problem they see regularly.For so many, the whole world of teen dating can seem like a gray area of what is right, what is wrong and what is too young.Proof comes in the form of pregnancies, medical issues and digital communications that go public.“Most of the time we question them and they admit it, but they think, ‘we’re both under 18, it’s consensual, how can we get in trouble for this? Often parents are under the same, misinformed impression.“The parents (of the younger teen) will be OK with it and think, ‘ah, he’s a nice guy’, and we’re not saying he isn’t nice,” said Glander, “but it doesn’t matter — it’s their age and activity that’s the problem.”Once the investigation is complete, the case is sent over to the county attorney’s office for review. Consequences Assistant Becker County Attorney Kevin Miller says when cases like this come across his desk, his decision to prosecute is typically already determined by the statute.“If there’s a crime broken there, you have to end up quite frequently charging it out,” said Miller, who does say every case is different, and therefore which punishments are sought can vary.If the person being charged is an adult, they may be harsher.
“School counselors, social service workers, medical staff — if they’re aware of it, they have to report it.”And detectives have to investigate.
Miller says he typically tries to avoid that, though, unless there is reason to think otherwise.“On several cases in the past, we’ve had an independent evaluator question the people involved and give an opinion as to whether or not they believe the person is a risk and should be required to register,” said Miller, who says the court does take into consideration whether or not each case is an isolated incident with one particular underage teen or if there is a history or pattern there.
Sexting One might think that tech-savvy teenagers would understand the gravity of sending nude or inappropriate photos of themselves to others, and yet investigators in Becker County say it happens all the time.
“And it doesn’t matter what the gender is; if it’s the female that is the older one, she’s the one in trouble,” said Nguyen.
That means, for example, that teens as close as a 15 and a 17 year old or a 14 and 16 year old, depending on their birthdates, could be in violation of the law if their relationship becomes sexual in nature.“Just dating in and of itself isn’t illegal,” said Becker County Sheriff Todd Glander.