Two Alabama teachers accused of having sex with students had their charges dismissed by a judge who declared the state’s teacher-student sex law unconstitutional.
Morgan County Circuit Judge Glenn Thompson issued the ruling Thursday that, at least for now, will keep former Decatur High School teacher Carrie Witt and David Solomon, an ex-aide at Falkville High School, from facing charges.
According to AL.com, Witt, 44, was arrested in March 2016 when police said she had sex with two teenagers — one who was 17 and the other 18 — when they were her students at Decatur High School. Solomon, 27, was accused of having sex with a 17-year-old student.
The law the judge has deemed unconstitutional prohibits any school employees from having sex with students who are younger than 19. Teachers or other school employees in violation of the law can be charged with a Class B felony that carries a punishment up to 20 years in prison. They must also register as sex offenders if convicted. Consent is not a defense.
However, the law is harsher on teachers and school employees than other citizens, who do not face criminal prosecution for having sex with 16-year-olds. State prosecutors, AL.com reported, have argued the law is constitutional and designed to protect students.
“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.”
Morgan County District Attorney Scott Anderson told AL.com that the attorney general’s office has been contacted and will handle the appeal.
Thompson explained in writing that because of how the law is written, it makes it difficult for courts to determine if both parties were consenting adults, if the teacher or school employee were in positions of authority over the students and whether the teacher or school employee abused their power to coerce or groom students, or to obtain illegitimate consent.
“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.”