In September, a new law signed by California Governor Gavin Newsom amends a former law by giving judges discretion on listing an individual as a sex offender if they have consensual anal or oral sex with a minor aged 14 or older. This type of judicial discretion is already granted in statutory rape cases involving a man who has vaginal sexual intercourse with a minor. However, it didn’t include circumstances in which an adult engaged in consensual oral or anal sex with a minor.
The old law was considered by many to discriminate against young LGBTQ individuals who engage in relationships with minors close to them in age by forcing them to register as a sex offender when heterosexuals in the same situation weren’t required to register. Controversy still surrounds the law, however, because it allows a ten-year age gap in these relationships. Some opponents claim that the law protects pedophilia, no matter to whom it applies. The law was created for situations like those in which two teenagers are in a relationship and one reaches the age of 18 before the other. However, those against the law point out that it could also apply to a 24-year-old having sex with a 14-year-old, which they feel is unacceptable.
The Initial Sex Offender Law
The sex offender law that has been in place for decades in California gives judges the ability to decide if a man should be placed on the sex offender registry if he has voluntary sexual intercourse with a female between the ages of fourteen and seventeen and is no more than ten years older than the female. The age of consent in California is eighteen. Any adult engaging in sex with someone under the age of eighteen may face statutory rape charges. This aspect of California law remains unchanged; it is only the issue of the sex offender registry that is affected. When an adult is ordered to register as a sex offender, it is a lifelong order.
The New Law and Its Implications
The law was changed when SB 145 went into effect in September. Under the new law, the age of consent remains the same, and nothing changes when minors under the age of thirteen are involved. The change simply alters the terms to make the law applicable to oral, anal sex, and vaginal sex, as opposed to vaginal sex alone. This gives judges discretion on whether to order sex offender registry for gay men involved with minors less than ten years younger than them. In contrast, they would have automatically been made to register previously. L.A. County District Attorney, Jackie Lacey, said, “This bill allows judges and prosecutors to evaluate cases involving consensual sex acts between young people, regardless of their sexual orientation, on an individual basis.”
Some Groups Show Support
Although the law is still controversial, due to its very nature, some groups have lauded the change. The nonprofit civil rights group Equality California co-sponsored the new bill and supported Governor Newsom signing it into law. Their official statement said, “If we want a California for all, then we need a justice system that treats all Californians fairly and equally – regardless of who they are, what they look like, or whom they love.” The law was also praised by Senator Scott Weiner, who introduced the bill.
Some Express Outrage
However, opponents of the bill maintain that the ten-year age gap is too liberal and allows for predatory behavior to go unpunished. It is assumed that judges wouldn’t allow such cases to slip through the system, as the point of the law is not to make things easier on those guilty of sex crimes but instead to sort of bridge the gap in a complicated area.
Lorena Gonzalez, a Democratic assemblywoman from San Diego, is one of those who spoke out against the law. She explained, “I cannot, in my mind, as a mother, understand how sex between a 24-year-old and a 14-year-old could ever be consensual, how it could ever not be a registerable offense.”
Shannon Grove, California’s Senate Republican Leader, is another opponent who spoke out against the new law. She posted a statement on Facebook after the law went into effect that said the state’s Democrats had “placed protecting sexual predators over protecting our children.”
Call Our Firm to Understand Your Rights
If you face accusations of misconduct based on activity protected under this law, talk with our team. You need an experienced, trusted attorney on your side. Being on the sex offender registry is very serious and can have long reaching consequences. In many situations, these laws aren’t applied fairly. When you work with us, you can rest assured knowing we have your best interests in mind throughout the process. Reach out to the Law Office of Stein & Markus today by visiting our website or calling us at (562) 512-7030 to request a free consultation.
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