It’s easy to find outrage at our teachers for engaging in any type of sexual activity with our students – especially when it happens within our own community here in Oklahoma City.
But when we look closely at the law, what we realize is it can be a rather confusing situation for both the teacher and the student.
From experienced Oklahoma defense attorney Jacqui Ford, here’s what to know about sex crimes involving children under the law.
Sex Crimes Against Children Under Oklahoma Law
Many times we see these students who are 16, 17, or 18-years-old who are otherwise legally able to consent who believe that they are following the law when they’re engaging in sexual activities with their teacher. They think that they have the legal, lawful authority to consent.
And, sometimes, even by the government’s account, the children, if you will in these cases, the 16, 17, and 18-years-olds are the ones pursuing the sexual activity.
Not to make excuses for what’s appropriate and inappropriate, but the law says that a 16, and 17, and 18-year-old can, in fact, consent to sexual intercourse in certain situations. What they don’t understand, and what many people don’t understand, is that there are special circumstances for teachers.
There is a statute – separate and distinct from all of the other rape cases – that defines having sex with a student, or an employee of a school. And what it says is that it is NOT possible for a student to consent to sexual intercourse with a teacher.
The idea is that the teacher is in an authoritative position over the student – whether they are actually in an authoritative position over the student, or they can be perceived by the student to be in an authoritative position. And that’s why the legislature has carved out this special set of circumstances.
Because the teacher maintains an authoritative position over the student, the law just says under zero circumstances is this type of relationship okay.
People in the community have different, varying opinions on this.
The fact of the matter is that we all owe a duty to each other, and to our children, to talk to them about what the law is. We have a duty to make sure that they know how the law will view these actions, even if they think it is fun and exciting and meaningful because they’re not being “forced” to do it by their teacher in an authoritative position, or because they’re not being coerced, or threatened, or bribed, or promised good grades.
Because in these cases the student, oftentimes, is not only a victim of the crime charged. The student becomes the victim of the media.
Consequences for Sex Crimes Involving Children in Oklahoma
If we’re dealing with student-on-teacher sexual assault, or rape, as it’s defined in Oklahoma, it carries a mandatory minimum of one year and a maximum of 15 years in the Department of Corrections.
That teacher will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of their life, which not only means they’re going to never teach again, but they’re likely not going to be able to live in the metropolitan area because of sex offender registration laws, and restrictions on where folks can live.
The idea of a child being the aggressor in these situations has some appeal for a jury because I think jurors understand day-to-day activities and real-life way better than legislators ever could. But it is not a legal defense.
And it’s important for us to recognize the difference between legal defenses and arguments made to a jury. To run the risk of taking a case like this to jury trial carries with it a huge burden when the teacher is facing 15 years in the Department of Corrections.
Prosecutors in this state have no interest in making deals with teachers because our prosecutors are elected officials. And as soon as they don’t charge you, or make a deal where you’re not a convicted felon, or don’t require you to register, that will be the first ad against them in their next election. It’s going to draw opponents. And, unfortunately, elected positions make decisions based upon their future electability, and not what’s right and wrong.
In the same vein, our legislators continue to make laws that don’t make any sense, and aren’t designed to protect anybody. And they’re not going to loosen up the ties on these laws, so we owe it to each other, and to our kids, to inform them.
The Importance of a Sex Crime Defense Attorney
The most important thing you need to do if you’re involved in this situation now if it’s been disclosed or has come out publicly is to contact an experienced sex crimes defense lawyer that knows how to handle the cases from the get-go.
It’s a terrible idea to give a statement to law enforcement without the sound advice of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. But worse than that is to go out publicly and answer questions with the media.
It’s important to note that this doesn’t apply just to teachers. It applies to any adult employee of a school district, including the principals, or a counselor, or a coach, anyone who’s employed by the school district is deemed to have an authoritative position over the children.
Contact Jacqui Ford Law
If you have any questions about rape or sex crimes in Oklahoma City, or sex crimes involving children, specifically with regards to teachers and students, and other employees of a school district, please contact our criminal defense team Jacqui Ford Law today