MADISON, Wis. -- A man who was 18 and had sex with a 14-year-old girl must keep registering as a sex offender, a Wisconsin appeals court ruled Wednesday.
The District 2 Court of Appeals adopted a new rule for interpreting a law that exempts offenders who are less than four years older than their victims from registering. The three-judge panel decided that the age difference is to be calculated by comparing the birth dates, and not the calendar year ages, of the two.
The court ordered Matthew C. Parmley of Sheboygan to continue to register as a sex offender, noting that he was four years and four months older than the girl at the time they had intercourse in 2004.
Parmley had pleaded no contest to second-degree sexual assault of a child, was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to register as a sex offender. Now 24, he had asked to be exempted from the registration requirements last year, saying he served his probation without violations.
A Sheboygan County judge granted the request, ruling "there is a four-year difference, not more than a four-year difference" between Parmley and the victim.
Prosecutors appealed. They argued that the age difference should be calculated by comparing birth dates and that Parmley should first undergo an examination to determine his probability of reoffending before being exempted.
The three-judge panel of the appeals court agreed, saying lawmakers intended to carve out a narrow exemption in cases in which two minors have consensual sex. Comparing calendar year ages would allow a nearly five-year age difference in some cases, which was not the intent, Judge Daniel P. Anderson wrote.
In adopting the rule, Anderson wrote: "This method of calculating age disparity between an actor and a child victim promotes the overarching state policy of protecting our children from those who would abuse them."
Anyone convicted of a wide range of sex crimes in Wisconsin is required to report their address, offense information, place of employment and other personal details annually for 15 years. Some of the worst offenders can be required to register for life.
Parmley's attorney did not immediately return a phone message.
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said the registry, which currently lists 21,405 offenders, has improved public safety and helped law enforcement officials investigate crime and arrest offenders.
"The court of appeals' decision safeguards those interests by keeping the narrow exemption for underage sexual activity from being expanded to offenders who are more than four years older than their victims," he said in a statement.