Voluntary Sexual Activity of Minors Law In California

In Affiliates v. Van de Kamp, 181 Cal. App. 3d 245, 226 Cal. Rptr. 361 (Ct.App. 1986) reproductive health care providers sued the California attorney general to overturn his ruling requiring health care providers to report to law enforcement, under the California child abuse reporting law, the names of children under fourteen years of age who they believed had engaged in voluntary, consensual sexual activity with another minor of similar age. The attorney general had ruled that such reporting was required because California law included within the crime of sexual abuse lewd and lascivious conduct upon or with the body of a minor under fourteen years of age and did not require that the perpetrator be fourteen years of age or older. In essence, the attorney general had ruled that every sexually active child under fourteen years of age was a child abuse victim, perpetrator or both, and every medical care provider who learned of this activity in the course of extending medical care was required to report it to law enforcement authorities for investigation of prosecution. The failure of a medical care provider to report, when required by the law, is a crime in California. The court in Van de Kamp agreed with the providers' contention that minors would not seek reproduction-related health care if no confidentiality requirements applied and their circumstances were automatically reported for a criminal investigation. Accordingly, it held that the legislature could not have intended that the providers report as child abuse all voluntary sexual activity of minors under fourteen years. It reached that conclusion in part by holding that the underlying criminal statute does not apply to sexual activity between partners who are both under the age of fourteen. See 226 Cal. Rptr. at 376-77. Contrary to the characterization in the dissent, this holding is not dicta.