A 14-year-old is being tried in Harris County, Texas near Houston for aggravated sexual assault of a child for having sex with his 12-year-old girlfriend, the Houston Chronicle reported.
The teen was in the seventh grade at the time he had sex with with the sixth-grade student. If found guilty, the teen would be labeled as a sex offender.
"He had consensual sex with his little girlfriend and he loved her. They were boyfriend-girlfriend," the teen's mother told the Chronicle.
Texas has what is known as a "Romeo and Juliet" law, which allows for someone to have consensual sex with someone within three years of age. That means a 17-year-old would legally be allowed to have sex with a 14-year-old, despite the 14-year-old being younger than the legal age of consent.
However, the law does not apply when the victim is under the age of 14. In Texas, the minimum age of criminal responsibility is 10, while the age of consent in the state is 17.
"The idea that a 14-year-old who has sex with a person just a little bit younger than him or her would be treated as the worst of the worst in our society and placed on the sex offender registry is really sick," the teen's attorney, Joseph Gutheinz, told the Chronicle. "If he has sex with someone who is younger by just days but is still 13 years old, he could be charged with one of the most serious offenses we have. It just blows my mind."
Public defender Jackie Stewart Gravois said that Harris County has tried trying similar cases in the past, but courts have generally not forced the suspect to register as a sex offender, as long as both sides agree the act was consensual.
"Very rarely do the juvenile judges in Harris County force anyone to register," she told the Cronicle. "They usually delay it and send them to sex offender treatment and then make a decision."