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Not All is Fair in Love and War, Even Among Consenting Adults

07-Oct-2013

They say that all is fair in love and war, and that what consenting adults do behind closed doors is their own business. However, many things that people would think are acceptable are actually criminal acts according to state laws that legislate morality.

Just ask West Virginia residents Kelcey Nicholas, 28, and Lautaura Jarrett, 21. Nicholas and Jarrett, both clearly over the age of consent, were engaged in a consensual sexual relationship; however, this relationship has led to each being charged with a felony sex crime and facing 5 to 15 years in prison.

What is their crime? What have they done that is so heinous that they are facing more than a decade behind bars?

Nicholas and Jarrett are each charged with seven counts of incest. The kicker? They are not even related by blood. Nicholas, only seven years older than Jarrett, is the young woman's stepfather, and according to a broad definition of "daughter" in state law, their sexual relationship is considered incestuous and illegal.

Police discovered the pair's sexual relationship when they went to Nicholas's home to arrest him for a home confinement violation. The encountered the two engaged in sexual intercourse, and the prosecuting attorney researched whether state law would allow a criminal incest charge.

Clearly, this is not a case of an adult stepparent engaged in sex with a minor stepchild. While it is pretty uncouth to cheat on your wife with her daughter, it does not seem as if two adults not related by blood should be charged with a felony sex crime for a consensual relationship. Many people would argue that this case is a waste of the state's resources and taxpayer money.

Oklahoma laws similarly describes relationships between stepparents and stepchildren as incestuous. In 43 O.S.§ 2, state law defines the "degrees of consanguinity" or relationship that make a marriage legal or illegal: "Marriages between ancestors and descendants of any degree, of a stepfather with a stepdaughter, stepmother with stepson, between uncles and nieces, aunts and nephews, except in cases where such relationship is only by marriage, between brothers and sisters of the half as well as the whole blood, and first cousins are declared to be incestuous, illegal and void, and are expressly prohibited." 

The Oklahoma criminal code prescribes the penalty for incest in 21 O.S. § 885. Incest is a felony sex offense punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison. Furthermore, it is considered a Level 3 sex offense, categorized among the most egregious sex crimes including forcible rape and child molestation. Anyone convicted of a Level 3 sex crime must register as an Oklahoma Sex Offender for life, providing address verification to law enforcement every 90 days.

Being branded a dangerous, high-risk sex offender for an act between consenting adults who are not related by blood seems to be an unreasonably harsh penalty. Criminalizing someone for engaging in such an activity seems to be puritanical and unnecessary. Finding experienced legal representation from a qualified defense lawyer is imperative for anyone facing inflated charges. Click here to find a criminal defense lawyer with the skill, resources, and knowledge to successfully handle your case.



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