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Supreme Court Holds that “Obnoxious and Unwelcome Touching on the Playground” is not a Lewd Act Relating to Prostitution

In In re K.A., Juvenile, 2016 VT 52 (April 29, 2016), the Vermont Supreme Court reversed the Family Division of the Caledonia Unit Superior Court’s decision adjudging a 12 year old boy delinquent under a statute that prohibits lewd acts related to prostitution.

Issue: After putting his hands in a female classmate’s pockets on the playground, K.A. was convicted of attempting to engage in a lewd act. K.A. appealed the decision, arguing that the evidence presented at trial was not sufficient to support the conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt that K.A. attempted to commit a prohibited “lewd act” under 13 V.S.A. §2632(a)(8), which states that “[a] person shall not: …[e]ngage in prostitution, lewdness, or assignation.”

Holding: The Court reversed the decision adjudging K.A. delinquent under 13 V.S.A. §2632(a)(8). After examining the history of the statute, the Court found that that it is meant to prohibit soliciting someone for “lewd acts relating to prostitution.” Given the meaning of the statute, it was plain error to charge what the Court deems “obnoxious and unwelcome touching on the playground” as a lewd act relating to prostitution.

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