Incest: Sex Offense or Dumb Law?

By May 12, 2008Sex Offenses

By Caryn J. Adams, Attorney at Law
The Gasper Law Group

When I was in junior high school, my dad bought me a book of absurd laws that I absolutely loved and read cover to cover multiple times. I still love absurd laws. For example, did you know that detonating a nuclear device anywhere in the city of Chino, California is punishable by a $500 fine? Or that it is illegal to drive around the town square in Oxford, Mississippi, more than 100 times on a single occasion?

There are plenty of great websites for absurd laws. “Dumb Laws,” , is a voluminous repository of the inane. The Young Turks have compiled a list of the 10 most absurd laws from around the world ( My favorite find is the story of Luke Bateman and Richard Smith, two British college students who in 2005 decided to spend their summer road-tripping across the United States and breaking as many absurd laws along the way as they could. No word on whether or not they actually did hire a boat and attempt to go whale hunting in Utah, but I wouldn’t expect them to confess to a felony anyway.

Of course, absurd laws aren’t so funny when they’re used to unfairly prosecute a client. In Colorado, incest is a class four felony punishable at the maximum by an indeterminate life sentence in prison. If the “child” involved is under the age of twenty-one, then the incest is considered “aggravated,” making it a class three felony. Now, I know that doesn’t sound so bad, and some of you are thinking, “Sure, any parent who commits incest should be locked up for a long time.” The problem is that “incest” includes natural children, adopted children, and step-children.

So consider this…
Let’s say you have a 20 year old man married to a 40 year old woman. And let’s say that the 40 year old woman has a 25 year old daughter from a previous marriage. If the man has an affair with the 25 year old daughter while he’s still married to her mother, he’s just committed felony incest. After all, she’s his step-daughter, right?

Or let’s change the facts. Let’s say instead that a 20 year old girl marries a 45 year old man with a 20 year old son (who may or may not be a “Wyld Stallion”) . If the two 20 year olds have sex with each other, the girl has committed felony incest. Further, it’s an “aggravated” case because the “child” in question is under twenty-one.
Both the 20 year old man in the first scenario and the 20 year old woman in the second scenario would be faced with the possibility of a lifetime in prison and the stigma of sex offender registration.

Now that’s absurd.