Aug. 11 (UPI) -- An Alabama judge ruled that a state law that criminalizes high school teachers having sex with students is unconstitutional and dismissed charges in two cases.
In Alabama, the age of consent is 16. The state law prohibits teachers from having sex with students under the age of 19. But Morgan County Circuit Judge Glenn Thompson ruled that "school employee engaging in a sex act or deviant sexual intercourse with a student" charges against former high school teacher Carrie Witt and former high school aide David Solomon should be dismissed because the law is too broad and violates their 14th amendment rights, which secures one's equal protection under the law, reported AL.com.
"The Court finds this statute unconstitutional as applied to these defendants," Thompson wrote in the order. "In finding so, this court does not endeavor to absolve any wrongdoing or to excuse the defendants. Moreover, the court does not encourage any similarly situated party to engage with impunity in what may very well be criminal behavior."
Witt, 44, was accused of having sex with two students, ages 17 and 18. Thomas, 27, was accused of having sex with a 17-year-old student.
Thompson wrote that the law prohibiting these sexual activities between people of consenting age was too broad because it doesn't allow room to determine if the sex was consensual or a result of an abuse of authority.
"It is this court's finding that the law grants these students the capacity to consent until and unless there is some showing that authority was used to obtain illegitimate or coerced consent," Thompson wrote. "If no such position of authority is alleged, the defendant must be permitted to show consent as a defense."
According to WAFF, prosecutors plan to appeal the ruling.
The law has also been challenged in another Alabama case where a teacher was charged with having sex with an 18-year-old student. Joel Sogol, the defense attorney in that case, said there are laws that protect vulnerable people, including minors and mentally incapacitated people from abuse, and that the teacher-student sex law doesn't do that.
"In this case, consent was freely given, without defect, and the defendant is being prosecuted for a romantic relationship with a consenting young man, solely because of her employment with Decatur High School," he said, according to Decatur Daily.