Two California teens face sexual assault charges

Two California high school students were recently arrested on sexual assault charges. Even though the accused are minors -- both are 17-year-old football players at their local high school -- prosecutors decided to release their names to the media. 

An experienced criminal defense attorney might agree that revealing the identities of the accused is a prejudicial, and perhaps premature step. Different policy considerations might come into play after a conviction. In this case, however, the teenagers implicated in the assault have not yet had their day in court. The media exposure has forced them and their families to deal with the social stigma that can accompany assault charges.

Another controversial issue is whether the teens will be face the potential penalties of adult sex offenders. In adult sex crime trials, a conviction might result in a long prison sentence, fines, and mandatory sex offender registration -- depending on the specific offense. 

Prosecutors and law enforcement officials can be overly aggressive in responding to assault allegations. Perhaps in an effort to protect an alleged victim, officials disregard the procedural protections to which all criminal defendants are entitled. In this case, for example, one of the teen offenders was kept locked up. The other was released under orders of 24-hour parental home supervision. 

If the alleged sexual interaction was indeed consensual, it’s unclear whether the teen offenders will be able to rebuild the damage that has been done to their social and personal lives. With the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney, prosecutors will be strictly held to their burden of proof.

Source:, “High School Football Players Accused of Sex Crimes Against Girls Appear in Court,” Willian Avila, Tony Shin and Jane Yamamoto, Sept. 17, 2013

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