A married man has had to register as a sex offender for the past 24 years because of a consensual sexual act that occurred when he was 19 and his then-girlfriend, now-wife, was 17.
Lonny Leon Rivera, 43, was caught by police in 1989 for having "consensual, voluntary relations" with his 17-year-old girlfriend, Courthouse News Service reported. He pleaded guilty to a single count of oral copulation with a minor, which requires lifetime registration as a sex offender in California.
Now Rivera is pleading with the court to remove the charge so he doesn't have to keep living under the onus of sex offender status.
While Rivera originally registered, he did not update his information annually as required. In 2012, California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed a criminal complaint for failure to register as a sex offender.
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Rivera is now petitioning to have the status removed, claiming that the law that pinned it on him is unconstitutional.
Due to a quirk in California state law, "oral copulation" with a minor receives a heavier sentence than statutory rape, which does not require lifetime registration as a sex offender. Rivera cited the California case People v. Hofsheier in which the California Supreme Court deemed the disparity in the punishments for these two offenses unconstitutional.
"Rivera's inclusion in the sex offender registry under the mandatory provisions of the California Sex Offender Registration Act violates his right to equal protection of the laws, as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 7 of the California Constitution," Rivera, who is being represented by a public defendor, wrote in his petition to the Tulare County Court.
Rivera points out that he poses no danger to the public, and that his lack of criminal activity in the past 24 years does not justify his sex offender status, which restricts where he can live or be present as well as alerting people via the internet that he is a predator.
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"Rivera poses no danger of sexual re-offense," he writes. "He has lived in the community for more than 25 years since the conviction and has not sexually reoffended. Rivera has not been arrested, charged or convicted of any sexual offense over the past 20 years."
The court would have to find that Rivera is likely to become a future predator for the label to be warranted, he claims.
"Not only has Rivera not committed any offenses, he has also remained with the 17-year-old girl involved in the underlying offense," he wrote. "They have been married and together for more than 25 years. Neither his original conviction nor subsequent criminal history (or lack thereof) could support an order requiring him to register as a sex offender."
The only hope Rivera has of being removed from the list is through his petition. He expects that Harris will oppose his plea.