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Name: People v. Fields
Case #: A135605
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 09/30/2014
Subsequent History: Review granted 1/14/2015: S222445

Felony punishment for oral copulation with a minor, while sexual intercourse with a minor is punishable as a misdemeanor, does not violate equal protection of the law. Defendants Fields and Griffin were convicted of numerous sexual offenses against minor females. One issue Griffin raised on appeal challenged the discrepancy between his felony sentence for oral copulation with a minor (Pen. Code, § 288a, subd. (b)(1)) and the misdemeanor punishment prescribed for sexual intercourse with a minor (§ 261.5, subd. (b)). Held: Affirmed. In People v. Hofsheier (2006) 37 Cal.4th 1185, the court held that mandatory sex offender registration (§ 290) for a voluntary sex act with a minor 16 years or older (§ 288a, subd. (b)(1)), violated equal protection because an adult convicted of sexual intercourse with a minor 16 years of age or older (§ 261.5) was subject to discretionary registration. However, Hofsheier did not address whether there may be a rational reason for the Legislature to provide trial courts greater discretion in sentencing for adults who engage in oral copulation with a minor over the age of 16 than adults who engage in sexual intercourse with such a minor. The burden of establishing the invalidity of a classification under the rational relationship test rests on Griffin. He must demonstrate that the disparity in punishment between section 288a, subdivision (b)(1) offenders and those convicted of violating section 261.5, subdivision (b) “bears no rational relationship to any conceivable legitimate state purpose.” He did not do this. “It is not irrational for the Legislature to want to deter offenses it perceives as more common, more difficult to detect, and more likely to be committed than similar offenses, by imposing more severe punishment for them, even if the less common offenses involve a greater risk of harm.”