Editor’s Note: This story contains content of sexual nature.
In the final hours of the 2020 legislative session on Monday, California legislators approved a bill that lessens the potential penalties for adults who have sex with minors, despite considerable opposition from Valley lawmakers.
Senate Bill 145 will allow individuals to not register as a sex offender if the victim is within 10 years of age of the offending adult and if the offense is the only one that would require the adult to register.
Under this law, judges will still have the authority to require a person to register as a sex offender if the court finds that the individual committed the offense as a result of sexual compulsion or for sexual gratification.
The punishment for individuals who commit a crime of sexual conduct with a minor under the age of 14 is not changed by this bill.
Bill analysis argues that current law mandates sex offender registration for sodomy, sexual penetration and oral copulation for adults who commit those acts with minors within 10 years of their age.
However, current law does not require sex offender registration for sexual intercourse.
“Sexual penetration is distinguishable from sexual intercourse in that the vaginal penetration is anything other than a penis,” the analysis states.
For example, a man will now not be required to register as a sex offender if he has sex with an underage boy who is at least 14, as long as the man is not more than 10 years older than the boy.
The bill’s author, San Francisco Sen. Scott Weiner, penned the legislation to close a perceived double standard in statutory rape cases of heterosexual and homosexual nature.
The bill passed 41-25 in the Assembly and 23-10 in the Senate, but incurred some bipartisan opposition.
Despite Weiner’s intent, some Democrats – including the vocal progressive stalwart Asm. Lorena Gonzalez (D–San Diego) – couldn’t shake the saw it as a slippery slope
“I agree this situation should never be subject to the sex offender registry,” tweeted Asm. Lorena Gonzalez (D–San Diego). “But this bill would also allow a 24 year old to prey on a 14 year old and not be deemed a sex offender.”
“As a Mom, I just can’t see that as ever being consensual,” she added.
Only one Valley legislator voted for Senate Bill 145: Sen. Anna Caballero (D-Salinas) of District 12, which covers parts of Fresno and Madera Counties as well as all of Merced County.
Sens. Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno) and Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) both voted no, and Sens. Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) and Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) did not cast a vote.
Asms. Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals), Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield), Heath Flora (R-Ripon), Adam Gray (D-Merced), Devon Mathis (R-Visalia), Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) and Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) all voted no.
Asms. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) and Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) did not cast a vote on the issue.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has until the end of September to sign the bill.