A Texas boy may find himself branded a sex offender aged just 14 because he slept with his 12-year-old "girlfriend".
The boy's mom told Chron that "he loved her" and that the sex was consensual. He has been charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child.
"And because he turned 14, they want to make him a sex offender, put him on the registry with paedophiles and child molesters - really sick and dangerous people," she said.
The Harris County children - who are not being identified - slept together when he was in ninth grade, after he turned 14, the Daily Mail reports.
In some states their two-year age gap would have seen them protected by the "Romeo and Juliet" law, which covers sexual relations between parties that have an age gap of three years or less.
But in Texas that can't be used if one of the parties is 12 or under. Anyone aged ten or up can be charged with the crime.
"It defeats the whole purpose of the Romeo and Juliet defence where you have two people relatively close in age and maturity," said the teen's attorney, Joseph Gutheinz.
"You would think the law would be more sympathetic as you go younger, because both parties are immature."
He added: "The idea that a 14-year-old who has sex with a person just a little bit younger then him or her would be treated as the worst of the worst in our society and placed on the sex offender registry is really sick."
Jay Jenkins, an attorney for the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, which wants to raise the age of criminal responsibility, said such cases were not unusual.
"That's the arbitrary nature of our sexual offence laws," he said. "There's very little rationality to those laws."
The ordeal has left the boy's family "going through hell," his mum said, adding: "What kind of life is he going to have if he's a sex offender?"
Jackie Stewart Gravois, an attorney with the Harris County Public Defender's Office, said she wasn't familiar with this specific case, but that it may be dismissed, or not go to court at all, if prosecutors feel there was no violence involved.
"That's going to be up to the discretion of the prosecutor," she said.
She also said that juvenile judges in Harris County rarely force young offenders to sign the sex offenders' registry.