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Decatur attorney teaches teens about juvenile laws and their consequences
By Keith Clines Staff Writer
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Patrick Caver said he would like to take his presentation about state law to schools, churches, civic groups and other interested parties. He can be reached at 256-751-5991 or email@example.com
Until recently, The Beacon House female juvenile group home in Jasper was having problems with some of the girls using cellphones to send nude photos of themselves and photos of themselves having sex to people outside the facility.
Joann Pickett, the home’s assistant director, said those practices may have stopped after Decatur attorney Patrick Caver spoke to the girls about state laws governing sending and receiving such photos and about how those photos could spread across the internet.
“They actually responded very well,” Pickett said last week. “The subject of cellphones comes up every day.”
Caver, who represents juveniles in Morgan County District Court, said he goes to classrooms and group homes to talk to youngsters about the legal aspects of some of the things that teens might be tempted to do.
“They teach the biology of sex,” Caver said of schools. “And they teach not to have sex. But they don’t teach what the law says about sex.”
Caver has spoken to Hartselle Junior High School civics teacher Dana Sharp’s seventh-grade classes for the past eight years about the state’s juvenile laws.
Caver uses humor to build a rapport with the students before transitioning into heavier matters such as juvenile drug and sex laws, Sharp said.
“I really don’t think that they think a lot about the consequences of these things,” she said. “I think it’s a real eye-opener for them.”
Sharp said she would like Caver to give the same presentation at a teacher workshop to help teachers recognize signs of improper behavior by students.
Caver said advancing technology has provided teenagers more avenues to get in trouble with the law. Their parents, he said, are not keeping up with the technology that their children have at their disposal and the dangers that accompany new technology.
Caver said he has found that teens sending nude photos of themselves by cellphone or receiving nude photos of someone by cellphone is a common practice. Sending, receiving or possessing those photos is a Class A felony, he said.
“That’s the same as shooting somebody,” he said.
Other aspects of juvenile sex laws that Caver said teens and some of their parents don’t understand are that a 17-year-old who has sex with a 15-year-old can be charged with second-degree rape, and that a 16-year-old who has oral sex with a 15-year-old can be charged with sodomy. Both charges are a Class B felony.
The age of consent in Alabama is 16.
“I don’t think parents know what sodomy is,” he said. “I think it’s probably the parents who don’t know the laws.”
Possibly the most critical aspect of a youth convicted of a sex crime is that person will be a registered sex offender the remainder of his or her life.
“Having to register as a sex offender affects your entire life — where you live, what you have to do, what you can’t do, where you can’t go and who you have to stay away from,” Caver said.
Pickett said counselors at The Beacon House, which is a transitional home for girls ages 12 to 18, also benefited from Caver’s presentation to the girls.
“There were several things that we didn’t know,” she said. “We had spoken to them in broad terms about these things, but Patrick was more definitive.”