The suicide of a 15-year-old boy, just one day after his high school principal told a local news station that an alleged “streaker” would face serious consequences has many outraged in the small northern Alabama city of Sparkman.
The teen’s high school principal speculated on camera to a local news crew that the teen would receive the maximum penalties for crimes of indecent exposure. There were also rumors swirling that the teen was told he may be labeled a sex offender. This followed an incident days earlier in which the teen had reportedly been filmed racing across the field during a high school football game, wearing nothing but his birthday suit. He was subsequently arrested.
Our Birmingham criminal defense attorneys know that while it’s unlikely that officials believed such statements might prompt the teen to harm himself, it goes to show the importance of first consulting with an experienced lawyer before making any assumptions about the outcome of a case.
The reality is that this case would have almost certainly been forwarded to juvenile court. As a first-time offender with no serious prior criminal record, the teen likely would have received probation, if anything. It’s possible a good attorney may have even been able to negotiate a scenario in which the charges would have been dropped, perhaps in exchange for community service or some other type of intervention program. There is almost zero chance, based on what we know so far, that this teen would have been slapped with a sex offender label.
But it doesn’t surprise us that officials may have tried to scare him into thinking so.
School and law enforcement officials had taken a hard line after the late-September incident, when a number of students took to Twitter, dubbing the teen a “legend” and saying that the city’s new slogan would include his name.
In addition to commentary on the possible outcome of the criminal case, the principal indicated that the teen would face penalties with the school as well, up to and including expulsion.
According to Alabama Code 13A-12-130, a person commits public lewdness if he or she exposes his or her anus or genitals in a public place in a manner that is reckless and may cause others to be alarmed or offended or if he or she commits any lewd act in a public place in which there is a recognition that they are likely to be observed by others would be “affronted or alarmed.” It’s considered a Class C misdemeanor, meaning it’s punishable by a maximum of 3 months in jail and a fine of up to $500.
Of course, that is assuming one is an adult. Juveniles tend to face consequences that are far less severe.
Indecent exposure, meanwhile, is a bit more serious, per Alabama Code 13A-6-68. This crime is defined as an individual whose intent is to arouse or sexually gratify “himself or any person other than his spouse” while exposing his genitals under circumstances that may be likely to cause alarm or affront to others in a public place. It’s a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail.
It’s unlikely officials would have been able to prove sexual intent in this case, and again, those maximum penalties would almost certainly only be applicable in cases of an adult conviction.
Again, we don’t doubt that the officials who spoke out did not intend for this young man to be hurt. However, no one should ever assume that they know how a criminal case is going to unfold, and juveniles who find themselves in trouble should be told that a criminal defense lawyer can often help to greatly mitigate any pending charges.