Crime & Justice

Bill closing sexual consent loophole heads to Gov. Brown's desk

SB 14 author Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach) at a health care event in February.
SB 14 author Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach) at a health care event in February.
Adrian Florido/KPCC

The state Assembly has unanimously passed a bill that would close a loophole in California law allowing defendants in civil suits to argue that a minor consented to sex with an adult. 

KPCC revealed the loophole in a story last fall about a civil suit in which an LAUSD lawyer argued that a 14-year-old girl could consent to sex with a 28-year-old teacher.

In a criminal case, an individual must be at least 18 to be able to give legal consent.

But L.A. Unified's lawyer cited court rulings that opened the door to arguing in a civil case that a minor can consent to sex with an adult. 

Sen. Ricardo Lara authored the bill, SB 14. It passed the Senate in April, and now goes to Governor Brown. 

"We are one step closer to protecting our children against abuse and inconsistencies in the legal system," Lara said in a statement. "Differences between civil and penal code when it comes to matters of consent are dangerous," he added, noting that SB 14 would prevent "an adult in a position of authority, like a teacher, who sexually abuses a child from claiming the child 'consented' as a defense."

Lara spokesman Jesse Melgar said conversations with Brown's office about the measure "have been constructive and positive." 

Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D-San Jose) introduced a similar measure, AB 29, which the Assembly approved in April. In May AB 29 was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has not yet acted on it.