Will Wisconsin create a 'Romeo and Juliet' exemption?

Given the grave consequences that come from having one's name placed on the state's sex offender registry, one would only hope and imagine that the laws mandating this as a form of punishment were narrowly tailored.

While this is true for the most part, there is at least one crime that state lawmakers are now saying is in drastic need of revision, as it's not only resulting in truly harmless individuals seeing their name added to the sex offender registry, but also serving to perform a "disservice to the public." 

It may come as a huge surprise for people to learn that it is actually against the law in Wisconsin for young people between the ages of 15 to 18 to engage in consensual sexual contact.  It may come as an even bigger shock to learn that these young people can have their names added to the sex offender registry.

"We want people to look at the sex offender registry and know who is a danger," said Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc). "If we dilute the sex offender registry, we're doing a disservice to the public."

Interestingly, Kleefisch and Rep. Fred Kessler (D-Milwaukee) have drafted a bill seeking to rectify this situation.

What would the bill do?

The bill would create what is known as a "Romeo and Juliet" exemption, whereby people between the ages of 15 to 18 who engage in consensual sexual contact would no longer see their names put on the state's sex offender registry.

It would also reclassify this offense as a new misdemeanor known as "underage sexual activity," which would also mean better options for clearing a record.

How many young people are currently on the sex offender registry?     

While reports are lacking specifics, Kessler indicated that that the number was less than 100.

Do other states have Romeo and Juliet exemptions?

At least five other Midwestern states -- Minnesota, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Iowa -- currently have these types of close-in age exemptions on the books.

What are its chances of passing?

As many as 30 lawmakers have already signed onto the bill. This coupled with the fact that the bill has met little to no opposition since its circulation started bodes well for its chances, say experts.  

Stay tuned for updates …

If you've been charged with a serious criminal offense or are under investigation, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can protect your rights and your future as soon as possible. 

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