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Can a Judge Sentence a Sex Offender to Celibacy Until Marriage?

Thursday Feb 16th, on Sex Crimes |

Sex offenders are treated very harshly within the criminal justice system. The severity of the penalties for sex offenses and the potentially life-long implications of conviction for a sex offense make it especially important for the accused to get help from skilled sex crime lawyers.

Now, those accused of sex crimes have yet another reason to be worried about the outcomes of their criminal proceedings. According to the New York Times, one judge sentenced a sex offender to celibacy until he gets married.

Is it Constitutional for a Judge to Sentence Someone to Celibacy?

The offender who was sentenced to celibacy is a 19-year-old man who pled guilty to raping a 14-year-old girl. The girl reportedly lied about her age, but the girl's mother told the defendant the truth before the sexual encounter. The mother said the young man had snuck into her daughter's room after he was 18 and sexually assaulted the 14-year-old, even though the girl told him to stop.

The age of consent is 18 in Idaho, the state where this occurred, so the girl's consent (or lack thereof) was not relevant. The 19-year-old pled guilty under a law that criminalizes sex with under-aged minors.

The man admitted that he engaged in intercourse with the under-aged girl and was sentenced to 5 to 15 years of imprisonment. However, his sentence was suspended as long as he participates in a rehab program and follows probation conditions imposed by the judge.

In this case, the judge indicated that the man cannot have sex until he is married, as a condition of his probation. The judge was able to do this using an old fornication law on the books. Although fornication laws aren't really enforced any more, such a law still exists in Idaho.  The law imposes up to six-months imprisonment and fines up to $300 for anyone who is unmarried and who has sex with another unmarried person.

Since the law still exists, and since people on probation cannot break the law, the judge simply made clear that the man couldn't have sex until he was married because he had to follow ALL laws, including the rarely-enforced one against fornication.

Although the reasoning technically makes sense, and although it is common for people on probation for sex offenses to have their behavior monitored, it is unclear whether the judge's order would pass constitutional muster.

Fornication laws haven't been challenged much in court since enforcement is so rare, but the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas is seen as broadly decriminalizing private sexual behavior among consenting adults.  The court likely would not uphold fornication laws as valid and, while judges can impose conditions on probation, the judge's authority is tempered by substantive due process protections. An order not to have sex until marriage would likely be considered a substantive due process violation and thus may not be upheld.

Regardless of whether the judge's ruling in this case stands or not, the ruling illustrates the great lengths to which the court system will go to punish those convicted of sex offenses. If you are faced with accusations of wrongdoing that could result in a conviction for a sexual act, you should contact the Albany sex crimes lawyers at The Law Office of James E. Tyner, PLLC right away to try to fight the charges and protect yourself from life-changing consequences.

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