INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. - The Florida American Civil Liberties Union is condemning the prosecution of 18-year-old Kaitlyn Hunt for allegedly having intimate sexual relations with her younger girlfriend.
The Sebastian resident's behavior is "both fairly innocuous and extremely common," according to a statement issued by the Miami-based group.
She is charged with lewd and lascivious behavior for allegedly having relations with her schoolmate late last year and at the beginning of 2013 at Sebastian River High School and at Hunt's home, according to court records.
An investigation started when the younger girl's parents brought their child to the Sheriff's Office, leading to Hunt's arrest on Feb. 16. Under Florida, an adult — which Hunt was at the time — may be arrested for having sex with a youth, said State Attorney Bruce Colton.
The case has attracted national attention, largely because Hunt's parents turned to social media last week to ask for public help in stopping prosecution of their daughter.
The ACLU agrees with the parents. The State Attorney's Office's "application of this law to Kaitlyn's conduct is another example of a troubling trend in Florida and across the country of criminalizing teenagers.
A conviction can create a "lifelong branding as a sex offender."
The State Attorney's Office is offering a plea deal under which Hunt could avoid the sex offender classification. She could plea to a lesser charge of child abuse and be under community control for two years, followed by a year of probation. During community control, she would be confined to her home except for going to work, school, church or to doctors.
She has until Friday to accept the offer or prosecutors will move ahead with the more severe charges of lewd and lascivious battery.
"High-school relationships may be fleeting, but felony convictions are not," the ACLU statement said.
"The school-to-prison pipeline is filled with students whose behavior is better addressed by school officials and parents, not by a criminal justice system that turned ordinary teenagers into unjust conviction."