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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher August 9, 2023

California law did not reduce penalties for having sex with children

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  • A 2020 California law changed how sex offenders are added to the state’s sex offender registry. It did not reduce penalties for having sex with minors.

An Instagram post claimed that California reduced penalties for having sex with minors.

The post shared a screengrab of this headline: "California Legislature Passes Bill Reducing Penalties for Oral, Anal Sex with Willing Children."

The poster wrote that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law in 2020.

The post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The law Newsom signed nearly three years before the Aug. 6 post did not change sentences for child sex crimes. It standardized when offenders are put on the state’s sex offender registry, a public reporting system mandated by state law.

The headline is from a September 2020 article by the conservative news site Breitbart about Senate Bill 145. Newsom signed it into law in September 2020 after the Legislature approved it. 

The measure applies only to victims ages 14 to 17 and any offender within a 10-year age range of the victim.

The measure eliminated automatic registration on the sex offender registry for young adults convicted of having voluntary anal or oral sex with a minor. 

No penalties were changed. For example, anyone age 21 or older who has sexual intercourse with a minor younger than 16 continues to face up to four years in prison.

But now, in some cases, a judge decides whether an offender is put on the registry. 

The 2020 law change does not apply in cases in which one person does not believe the sexual contact was voluntary.

LGBTQ+ advocates said the law’s previous version was discriminatory, a relic of a penal code that criminalized oral and anal sex acts, even between consenting adults, until 1975.

"Right now, law enforcement is wasting resources monitoring 18-year-olds who had sex with their 17-year-old high school boyfriend or girlfriend," advocates said.

​Nothing in the legislation changed penalties for statutory rape, which California prosecutors can charge as  a misdemeanor or felony. 

It remains illegal for any adult to have any type of sex with a minor.

The California law did not reduce penalties for having sex with children. We rate the Instagram post False.

Our Sources

Instagram, post, Aug. 6, 2023

California Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, "S.B. 145 Myths And Facts," accessed Aug. 7, 2023

PolitiFact, "Claim viewed by millions on social media says California legalized pedophilia. That is false," Sept. 2, 2020

FactCheck.org, "California bill doesn’t make pedophilia ‘legal,’"  Sept. 4, 2020

Agence France-Presse Fact Check, "California bill does not decriminalize pedophilia," Sept. 4, 2020

Breitbart, "California Legislature passes bill reducing penalties for oral, anal sex with willing children," Sept. 3, 2020 

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California law did not reduce penalties for having sex with children

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