In re P.M.

156 Vt. 303, 592 A.2d 862 (1991)

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In re P.M.

Vermont Supreme Court
156 Vt. 303, 592 A.2d 862 (1991)

Facts

P.M. (defendant), who was just under 15 years old, lived in the same neighborhood as M.C., a girl who was just under nine years old. P.M. kissed and hugged M.C. and rubbed his genital area against M.C.’s genital area for the purpose of sexual gratification. M.C. acquiesced at first but then told P.M. to stop, which he did. Vermont statute criminalized a person’s willful lewd or lascivious act upon the body of a child under the age of 16, with the intent of gratifying the sexual desires of the person or the child. The statute did not contain any language concerning the age difference between a victim and a defendant. The statute’s purpose was to protect children under the age of 16. P.M. was charged with delinquency for committing a delinquent act, defined by statute as an act that state law designated as a crime. P.M.’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the statute was intended to protect children under the age of 16 such as P.M. and that therefore P.M. could not be prosecuted for violating the statute. The district court, sitting as a juvenile court, held that whether P.M. could be prosecuted for violating the statute was irrelevant; the salient point, the court held, was whether P.M. committed the delinquent act. The court found that because of the six-year age difference between P.M. and M.C., P.M.’s conduct constituted lewd and lascivious acts and that P.M. was a delinquent. The court sentenced P.M. to a sex-therapy and education program and juvenile probation. P.M. appealed, arguing that the statute was intended to protect children under the age of 16 and that because P.M. was under the age of 16, he could not be prosecuted under the statute.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Gibson, J.)

Dissent (Dooley, J.)

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