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School Personnel’s Sexual Relations with a Student Is a Crime
07 Jan 2017

School Personnel’s Sexual Relations with a Student Is a Crime

The age of consent in New Mexico is seventeen. Consent refers to the age at which a person can consent to engage in sexual activity.  However, in certain instances, New Mexico law prohibits sexual relationships even if the victim has reached the age of consent and consented to the sexual activity.  For example, even if a student at a school is seventeen, a school personnel could still be charged and convicted for having sexual relations with that student.

The Law Criminalizing School Personnel Having Sexual Relations with a Student

Pursuant to NM Stat § 30-9-11 (G) 2, school personnel are prohibited from engaging in sexual intercourse with students who are 18 years of age or younger and attend the particular school at which the school personnel are employed or volunteer. Please note, the statute also covers volunteers, as well as employees, contract employees, and licensed and unlicensed employees.

Defenses

The statute is not absolute; defenses do exist. The Romeo and Juliet exception is one of the key defenses, so called because the statute does not cover parties that are close in age. The law specifies that the teacher, or other school personnel, must be at least four years older than the student to be in violation of the law. This exception applies to students that are thirteen to eighteen years of age.

Typically, criminal statutes are narrowly interpreted. Uncertainties in statutes are construed in favor of people charged with a crime. Ambiguities do exist in NM Stat § 30-9-11 (G) 2. For example, NM Stat § 30-9-11 (G) 2 states that the defendant must learn “… while performing services in or for a school that the child is a student in a school.” Does this mean that a person accused of having sexual relations with a student can raise the defense that he or she became acquainted with the student independent of the school environment? This of course is a question that only an experienced New Mexico sexual crimes defense attorney can answer and the results would vary on the facts of each case.

Like in other criminal cases, school personnel have the defense that the prohibited act did not occur. Furthermore, the burden of proof rests with the state. Therefore, do not provide evidence against yourself. School personnel who are under suspicion of improper relations with students should excise their right to remain silent. This means to not only refrain from answering questions posed by the police, but also by the principal or other school personnel. The New Mexico Rules of Evidence 11-801D (1) allows statements made by a defendant to be admitted into evidence.

This means if your principal calls you into the office and says, “Nasty rumors are circulating that you are having an improper relationship with a student,” what you tell the principal can be admitted against you at trial. Any innocent statement you make can also be used against you. For example, an admission that you tutored a student can be cast in court as an arranged opportunity to engage in sexual activity with a student.

School Administrators

Teachers routinely tell students the best way to deal with a problem is to be open, honest and upfront, which is, typically, good advice. However, if you are charged in violation to NM Stat § 30-9-11 (G) 2, the person that you need to be open and upfront with is your New Mexico sexual crimes defense attorney. The conversation that you have with your principal could be the key evidence against you.  Therefore, resist the urge to talk with the principal. If you are pressured to speak to your principal, request to first speak to your attorney.  Your career may be in jeopardy if you refuse to cooperate with school administrators. However, your career with the school probably became endangered when the accusations were made regardless of the truth or absence of truth in the accusations. At this point, you are protecting your liberty and opportunity to pursue other options.

Penalties

Violating to NM Stat § 30-9-11 (G) 2 is a serious offense.  Pursuant to NM Stat §31 -18-15 A (10) and E (9), a school personnel’s sexual relations with a student is a class 4 felony that carries up to eighteen months in prison and a possible $5,000 fine.  You face more than criminal sanctions. In the American scheme of justice, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately, that does not apply in the court of public opinion. Although previously you were quietly going about life, your face can be plastered over the newspapers and television stations prior to any evidence being heard in court.

Proactively Seek Legal Advice When You Hear the Rumors

When there are rumors that you, a school personnel (or volunteer), is having sexual relations with a student, the school district and school administration is obligated to open an investigation once they are aware of such rumors.  Don’t wait until you are official charged with a crime to obtain an attorney because anything you said to the school administration along with the final investigative report could be used against you during trial.  An experienced sexual crimes defense attorney can help you on several fronts.  He or she can advise you on how to deal with school administrators if they question you. In addition, you will have the understandable need to discuss the issue with someone. Your attorney is the only person you can trust in this matter. Statements made to colleagues or even the news media can come back to hurt you at a trial. Sexual crimes defense attorney Ray Twohig is available to assist you with the accusation or charge of sexual relations with a student.

 

Keywords:  School personnel’s sexual relation with a student; sexual crimes defense attorney

Title: School Personnel’s Sexual Relations with a Student Is a Crime

Meta Description: This explains the criminal law regarding a person affiliated with the school, whether a school’s licensed or unlicensed employee, contract employee or volunteer, accused with having sexual relations with a student, along with potential defenses.

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