California’s justices overturned state law requiring adults 21 years or older who are convicted of having oral sex with 16- and 17-year-olds to automatically register as a sex offender for life, reports the Associated Press. The California Supreme Court, ruling 6-1, said the law, first adopted in 1947, was unconstitutional. The majority said that the law was too harsh or unfair because adults 21 or older who are convicted of having sex with minors ages 16 and 17 are not automatically required to register as sex offenders.
The justices pointed out that lawmakers declined to treat both categories of offenders equally three times in the last 10 years. The court noted that, because the law did not treat the two categories of sex offenders similarly, the law violated both state and federal equal protection rights. “Mandatory lifetime registration of all persons who, like defendant here, were convicted of voluntary oral copulation with a minor of the age of 16 or 17, but not of someone convicted of voluntary sexual intercourse with a minor of the same age, violates the equal protection clauses of the federal and state constitutions,” Justice Joyce Kennard wrote for the majority. Adults who have sexual activity with children under 16 are required to register.