Early last week, Creekview High School teacher Adam Blake Bearden, 31, was arrested after allegations surfaced that he was involved in a sexual relationship with a 17 year-old female student. He was later charged with four counts of sexual assault.
Officials believe the alleged relationship was consensual and took place off school grounds over a period of three months.
Under Georgia law, it is illegal for a teacher to have any sexual contact with a student even if the student is an adult and consents to it. Georgia’s sexual assault statute, O.C.G.A. § 16-6-5.1, prohibits sexual contact between someone in a supervisory role and an individual subject to their authority, such as a student, a psychotherapy patient or an inmate. Consent of the “victim” is not a defense.
The statute provides for a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of ten years—equal to the mandatory sentence for armed robbery offenses and double the mandatory term for a child molestation conviction. For years, the sexual assault statute provided for a maximum sentence of just three years, but the legislature amended the statute in 2006 to provide for the current sentencing scheme. The reason for this grossly disproportionate treatment is a mystery and likely a legislative error that has yet to be corrected. Clearly, sexual contact between two consenting adults cannot possibly demand a sentence that is double the sentence for a child molestation offense.
As criminal defense attorneys who specialize in these cases, we have handled several prosecutions under Georgia’s sexual assault statute. In each case, we raise constitutional challenges to the statute and will continue to do so until this injustice is corrected by either the courts or the legislature. In one notable sexual assault case involving a respected Georgia doctor, we were able to negotiate a plea to a misdemeanor sexual battery charge which not only saved our client from a felony conviction, but also allowed him to avoid sex offender registration.
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