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SB 145’s Effect on Statutory Rape and Sex Offender Laws

Few laws in recent memory appear to have caused as much controversy as California’s Senate Bill 145 (SB 145) has, beginning in September 2020. On Twitter we saw SB 145 referred to as “the bill that allows a 24 year old to have sex with a 14 year old and escape a felony conviction and requirement to be a registered sex offender.” Thankfully, that’s not correct. Unfortunately, this misleading information came from a sitting State Senator who represents the 28th District, which encompasses large portions of Riverside County.

So what does SB 145 actually do? Basically, its goal is clear up some previously conflicting laws because California was treating statutory rape differently depending on the type of sex involved. It is also geared toward preventing further discrimination against LGBTQ people and changes the pronouns “he or she” to “the person” to be more inclusive of the LGBTQ community.

Previously, the law maintained that after being convicted of having vaginal intercourse with a minor when there is less than a 10-year age difference (what’s commonly known as “statutory rape”), it is up to the judge to determine whether the offender would have to register as a sex offender. The judge would make their decision on a case-by-case basis, depending largely on whether the conduct seemed otherwise “predatory.” However, if the person was convicted of another form of sex—such as oral or anal—the person was required to register as a sex offender, whether the judge thought it was fair or not.

It is important to note that this only really applies when the minor is over 14 years old. If they are younger than that, different laws apply and so do mandatory sex offender registration rules. Who we are really talking about here are minors between the ages of 14 to 17, who consensually engage in sex acts with adults less than 10 years older than them.

So let’s look at a realistic example. A 19-year-old boy has sex with his 17-year-old girlfriend. Everything was completely consensual, but still unlawful because she is not 18 yet. Looking at that case, a judge would be able to decide that the 19-year-old does not need to suffer the harsh and irreparable consequences of registering as a sex offender. But if the same couple (or a gay couple) engaged in oral or anal sex instead, prior to SB 145, the judge lacked any discretion and the adult would legally have to register as a sex offender.

That said, if a 14-year-old and a 24-year-old have sex, the judge still has the option to require the 24-year-old to register as a sex offender. And they almost certainly will.

Why did the California legislature amend the law? So that it would make more sense. It does not change a single thing about which offenses are criminal and which are not. It is

still illegal for that 17-year-old and 19-year-old to have sex. And the punishment is the same. Anyone saying otherwise either hasn’t read the eight-page law, or is deliberately trying to mislead their audience.

To learn more about what SB 145 does and does not do, check out David P. Shapiro’s video here, or give us a call today at (619) 295-3555 to set up a consultation with one of our attorneys.

The contents of this article and blog are for meant for informational and marketing purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Viewing and/or use of the blog does not form an attorney-client relationship. No statements in this post are a guarantee, warranty, or prediction of a particular result in your case.

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