People often misrepresent themselves and their age on dating sites, and most of the time, it’s harmless. However, sometimes listing a false age can have serious consequences. Zachery Anderson (19) landed on the sex offender list in Indiana after he had sex with a girl who lied about her age on a dating app, reports CNN and the New York Times.
Anderson used the app Hot or Not, which lets you rate people around you based on attractiveness, and lets you chat with those people, if you decide to do so. The app is sometimes used for hook-ups, as in Anderson’s case. The problem was that the girl, who told Anderson she was 17, was actually just 14 years old and below the legal age of consent.
Even though both Anderson and the girl said the sex was consensual, it’s not currently seen as a defense under existing sex offender laws. As such, Anderson was sentenced to 90 days in jail, 5 years probation, and 25 years on the sex offender registry. Now that he’s a registered sex offender, he’ll have to regularly contact the authorities, allow searches in his home every 90 days, and to live a certain distance from schools and parks. Part of his probation cuts him off from the Internet, too, which is a problem because he’s studying Computer Science.
Anderson’s family members, the girl who misrepresented her age, and her parents agreed that his name should not be added to the registry. The girl’s mother testified in court that Anderson should not be labeled a sex offender. The girl also apologized for not disclosing her true age, saying that it “kills me every day knowing that you are going through hell and I’m not. I want to be in trouble and not you [sic].”
“If we caught every teenager that violated our current law, we’d lock up 30 or 40 percent of a high school,” said former Michigan judge William Buhl. “We’re kidding ourselves.” According to Buhl, continuing to add teenagers to the sex offender registry takes away resources that authorities can use to properly monitor those who pose a more severe threat.