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South Florida high school teacher accused of sex with student

Any criminal charge can damage a person's reputation. But felony charges arising out of alleged sexual involvement with a minor can result in a person being vilified by society for life. This is the possible fate that awaits a South Florida high school teacher if he is convicted on charges he had consensual sex with a 16-year-old student.

Of course, under the law there is no such thing as consensual sex between an adult and a minor. Minors are presumed to lack the capacity to give meaningful consent; any sexual act involving an adult and a minor is treated as a form of rape.

In this case the 25-year-old teacher is accused of having sexual relations with the girl last December. The girl's mother claims she became suspicious when she thought she detected a change in her daughter's behavior, so she contacted police. The teacher turned himself in and was charged with one count of sexual contact with a minor. He has been reassigned until the criminal allegations are resolved.

Cases like this must be defended vigorously. Tragically, it is not unheard of for people to fabricate charges like this. An alleged victim could be motivated by jealousy or spite; it is not hard to imagine reasons why a high school student would want to strike out at a teacher. Similarly, the changes in the girl's behavior that were allegedly observed by the mother could have a number of different causes. Anyone who has spent time around teenagers knows that moodiness and acting differently is hardly unusual for that age group.

A conviction of a sex crime can literally destroy a person. People who are convicted of sexual felonies are placed on sex offender registries for life. After being released from prison they are often unable to find housing or employment. The accused has a right to tell his story in court, however, and to confront and cross-examine his accusers. In many cases cross-examination can reveal enough holes in the prosecution's case to raise a reasonable doubt as to the accused's guilt.

Source: WPBF.com, "South Broward High School teacher Michael Lunt had sex with student, deputies say," March 27, 2013

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