In California the age of legal consent is 18 and any adult who has sex with a person who is under the age of 18 and who is not his/her spouse can be charged with the crime of statutory rape. If you've been accused of statutory rape you need a criminal defense lawyer. A conviction for statutory rape can lead to imprisonment and heavy fines. Kroger Law Group has experience in all types of criminal defense cases. If you have been accused of statutory rape call our office at (323) 655-5700 to schedule a free consultation.What Is Statutory Rape?
Statutory rape takes place when a person over the age of consent has sex with a minor.
In order to be convicted of statutory rape a prosecutor has to prove that you:
- Had sexual intercourse with the alleged victim. (Sexual intercourse involves any amount of penetration.)
- You were not married to the alleged victim.
- The alleged victim was under the age of consent at the time of the sexual encounter.
Statutory rape has to do with age, not consent. Rape happens when someone forces another person to have sex with them against their will. In the instance of statutory rape there can be consent but the government still makes it illegal due to one person being under the age of consent. Trying to prove that the minor was the one who initiated the sexual contact or agreed to it is not going to help your case. If the person is under the age of consent then they cannot legally consent to the sexual encounter.
For example a 22-year-old college student meets a 17-year-old high school student at a local party and they proceed to have sexual intercourse with the 17-year-old's consent. Even though both parties wanted to participate in the act, the 17-year-old cannot legally consent, therefore the 22-year-old can be charged with statutory rape.California Laws Regarding Statutory Rape
California's statutory rape law is defined in Penal Code Section 261.5 as "an act of sexual intercourse accomplished with a person who is not the spouse of the perpetrator, if the person is a minor." In the state of California the age of consent is 18, so minors under the age of 18 cannot legally consent to sex. If a person over the age of 18 has sex with a person under the age of 18 that is considered statutory rape under the law.
Statutory rape is a "wobbler" in California, which means it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.Statutory Rape Penalties In California
The legal penalties for statutory rape depend on the sexual acts in question and the difference in ages between the two parties. The charge for someone who engaged in sexual activity with a minor who is no more than three years younger is a misdemeanor. The charge for someone who engaged in sexual activity with a minor who is more than three years younger is either a misdemeanor or a felony.
A person over the age of 21 who engages in sexual activity with a minor that is under 16 can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony but faces harsher penalties if it's a felony.
If the charge is a misdemeanor you are facing:
- Up to 1 year in jail.
- Fines up to $1,000.
If the charge is a felony you are facing:
- Up to 3 years in county jail if you were no more than 3 years older than the alleged victim.
- Up to 4 years in county jail if you were over 21 years of age or older at the time of the encounter.
- Fines up to $10,000.
If you are an adult you can also face civil penalties of up to $25,000.Romeo and Juliet Laws
Certain states have "Romeo and Juliet" laws in place that protect minor couples engaging in sexual intercourse as long as they are close to the same age. California does not acknowledge any "Romeo and Juliet" laws, therefore it is always illegal to have sexual intercourse with a person who is under the age of 18.
Surprisingly this also applies when both parties are minors. So if two 17-year-olds start having a sexual relationship, they are technically in violation of California's statutory rape law.Defenses Against Statutory Rape
If you are charged with statutory rape in Los Angeles we advise you to contact a criminal defense attorney right away so they can start planning your defense strategy.
Here are some common defenses to statutory rape charges in California:
- Mistake of Age: California is one of a few states that accepts mistake of age as a defense. In order to successfully use this defense you have to prove that you didn't know the victim was under the age of 18. For example, if you met the victim at a bar where only adults are allowed or if the victim showed you a fake ID.
- False Accusation: As in many rape cases, often times statutory rape is a "he said, she said" case. If you have prior bad history with the victim there may be cause to believe that they falsely accused you.
Although in California you do not have to register as a sex offender after a statutory rape conviction, it can still have a horrible impact on your reputation. This type of charge can really harm you professionally. If you've been charged with statutory rape in Los Angeles you need legal representation. If you are convicted of this crime you're facing prison time as well as hefty fines. Call Kroger Law Group at (323) 655-5700 today to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney.