A hearing yesterday resulted in a former Franklin County bus driver being sentences to 30 days in prison for engaging in sexual acts with a 14-year-old boy on the bus that she drove. The 23 year-old driver will also serve 3 years on probation, pay a fine of $500 and be forced to register as a sex offender for the next 25 years. Her relationship with the boy was consensual, but Ohio Rev. Code § 2907.04 outlines that engaging in sexual conduct with a person between 13 and 16 years old if considered "Unlawful Sexual Conduct with a Minor", and can be considered a 1st degree misdemeanor or a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th degree felony depending on the nature of the offense.
The driver could have been sentenced to simple probation time, but the judge ultimately decided on a harsher punishment. This demonstrates the range of penalties that an offender may face, and how vastly a sentence could be affected by the lawyers and judges involved in the case.
If the offender had been a teacher, coach, or other authority figure, they could be charged with sexual battery, a crime which generally carries much harsher penalties. Bus drivers, however, do not fall under this category.
Engaging in sexual activities with a minor is considered a serious offense because a minor under 16 is not deemed old enough to knowingly consent to a sexual relationship. While older men engaging in a relationship with younger women is statistically more common, this case is an example that the reversed scenario still occurs, and penalties are still harshly enforced on both men and women for this offense.
The consequences that the driver faces can interfere with her future for decades to come. Registering as a sex offender may dictate where you can live and your employment opportunities. Any charge involving sexual acts with a minor, whether consensual or not, carry a heavy social stigma that can make many aspects of life difficult. That's why it's so important to seek the help of an experienced attorney when charged with a sexual offense. A lawyer can fight for more lenient sentencing if you are convicted, and you may stand a better chance of avoiding penalties such as requirement to register as a sex offender.