He may have finished his time behind bars, but for the teenager you're about to meet, life as a sex offender is its own punishment. No more hanging out with friends in public parks, no smartphone no... See More
He may have finished his time behind bars, but for the teenager you're about to meet, life as a sex offender is its own punishment. No more hanging out with friends in public parks, no smartphone no access to the internet. All because he had sex with a girl who lied about her age. My "Nightline" coanger juju Chang is there for his first day out of jail on our series "Firsts." Reporter: It's just before 6:00 A.M. Outside county jail? St. Joseph, Michigan. Les and Amanda Anderson are here to pick up their 19-year-old son Zach. They're working on him. They said they're getting him now. Reporter: It's been two and a half months since they've seen him. How are you, buddy? Reporter: Finally, the hug they've been waiting for. You all right? Yeah. Reporter: He was arrested last winter after having sex with a girl he met on the dating app hot or not. The girl told him she was 17. But she wasn't. She was just 14 years old. If you'd known that she was 14, would you have had sex with her? I wouldn't even have gone to her house. I literally wouldn't have gone to her house at all. Reporter: She's since admitted to lying about her age but that didn't keep Zach from going to jail. There's no criminal in our son. And the mother and the girl herself said, please don't call us a victim, my daughter's not a victim, she was willing and participated and everything that happened, she wanted it to happen. Reporter: Even though he's out, he's far from free. Today is his first day as a convicted sex offender. For the next five years he will live by restrictive rules. He can't own a smartphone or use the internet and has a nightly curfew of 8:00 P.M. And he'll be listed on the sex offender registry for the next 25 years. The punishment he and his parents say doesn't fit the crime. So they're fighting for a reduced sentence. I think it's ridiculous. I know that I'm not a sex offender. It's really, really hard. It's set up for a person to fail. Reporter: Zach graduated high school just last year. Like many teens he turned to his smartphone to find a date. I had asked her, how old are you? She had told me 17. Because I just got out of high school, so two years' difference, I didn't think that was a big deal. Reporter: The 14-year-old girl falsely registered on the adult section of the site. They flirted via text and arranged to meet in her hometown of Niles, Michigan, 20 miles across the state line from Zach's home in Indiana. He picked her up and they drove to a playground where they had sex. Did you think anybody was alarmed? Did you think her mother was looking for you? Not really. I hugged her and then took her back to her house. Reporter: Unbeknownst to them, the girl's mother called the police that night, worried about her daughter's whereabouts. Two months later, detectives showed up at Zach's work. My friend was working there, came to the back, there's two detectives here, they want to talk to you. I heard pounding like crazy. Reporter: He was arrested and pled guilty to fourth degree criminal sexual conduct. At the trial Zach found an unlikely ally, the mother of the girl he had sex with. The girl's mother telling the judge, I don't want him to be a sex offender because he really is not. Her daughter adding, I feel nothing should happen to Zach. The judge condemned what he called a culture of meet, hook up, have sex, sayonara, totally inappropriate behavior, and sentenced him to 90 days in jail. The hardest part probably for me was seeing him led away. He turned and looked at us and it's like, we want to give him a hug. We didn't even have that opportunity. Reporter: Today after two and a half months of jail food, this is Zach's first taste of freedom. A smoothie. Hold on, I want to take a picture of that. Reporter: Every day errands no longer taken for granted. There you go. Thanks. Thank you. Newman. Good to be out. When you're locked inside for a couple of months, it's crazy to get outside. Good luck, young man. Thanks. Reporter: Now that he's out, he'll be living on his own for the first time. He's not allowed to live here at the family home because it's within 800 feet of a public boat ramp, just shy of the 1,000-foot minimum. What they're forcing him to do is to leave jail, go to a house, be by yourself. Reporter: His parents had to dip into savings for legal fees and to buy Zach a fixer-upper that meets the distance requirement. He knows where the house is but he's not been inside. We're excited to show him that. That may lift his spirits a bit. This is your crib, buddy. Walk you around the property. This is part of the property too. All this? All the way to the road. All this yard's yours. You want to open this? Sure. There you go. All right. It's a nice fireplace. Here's your bedroom. Floors look new. I'll show you the basement. There's no -- it's not finished. Oh, yeah, go ahead. I like this basement. I'm going to build some ramps down here ask skate. Have my own skate park down here. I haven't skated in a while. Feels good. Reporter: It's his favorite activity. But because sex offenders are not allowed in public parks, finding a way to skate will be tough. Since he can't even use a computer, his budding career in computer science now disrupted. I can't really have like an actual career. I'm going to be working at a job but not doing something I enjoy doing. How does it sit in your head to hear your son is a registered sex offender? It's totally bogus. We don't see him that way. If our son's a sex offender, there's a lot of the people on that list like him which dilutes the list and makes it meaningless. Young men are told in high school, 15 is jailbait. Reporter: Michigan state senator Rick Jones helped write the state's sex efender registry law. He says Zach should have been more careful. I would hope somebody who was 19 years old would say, do you have a driver's license or something? You don't appear to be the appropriate age. It's crazy. It's like a split decision. Like a small decision, know what I mean, and your life can affect like everything that you do. Reporter: Making matters worse for Zach, Michigan does not provide an automatic defense for when a girl lies about her age. If he engaged in this behavior 20 minutes across the state line, he wouldn't have been charged at all. The law unfortunately at this time in Michigan doesn't have the same protection as Indiana and 19 other states. There will be plenty of people who say, those laws or the books for a reason, to protect minors from sexual predators. Remember, we're not talking about loosening the law. No one's indicating that somebody who preys on a young adult in a predatory manner shouldn't be prosecuted, they absolutely should be. This is an instance you rarely get to say the defendant had no imcriminal intent. I don't think the defendant was negligent in engaging in the encounter. Reporter: Next week they go to court once again to appeal his sentence. They want Zach removed from the sex offender registry. We're hoping either to get a resentence -- obviously our goal and hope would be charges could be dropped. Reporter: Not just for Zach but what they say are so many others like him. We hope they stop putting people on the sex offender registry like they're passing out traffic tickets. Because there are hundreds and hundreds of people that don't deserve to be on that list. They're just publicly shaming these people and our son for life. Reporter: For night line, I'm juju Chang in Elkhart, Indiana.
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