Share on Facebook In California, it is illegal for an adult someone 18 or older to have sex with a minor someone younger than 18 , even if the sex is consensual. Those who break the law have committed statutory rape. Statutory rape laws are premised on the assumption that minors are incapable of giving informed consent to sexual activities.
The age of consent can vary among states, and some states differentiate between consensual sex between minors who are close in age for example, two teenagers of the same age , as opposed to sex between a minor and a much older adult. Though statutory rape does not require that the prosecutor prove an assault, it is still rape. Of course, rape that does involve force or an assault is illegal in California and prosecuted as forcible rape. Penalties depend on the ages of the defendant and victim, as described below.
Unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor involves sexual intercourse or penetration however slight between a minor who is 17 or younger and a defendant of any age. Unlawful oral copulation includes oral sex between a minor who is 17 or younger and a defendant of any age. Sexual penetration includes sexual intercourse or penetration however slight between a minor who is under 14 and a defendant who is at least ten years older than the minor.
Lewd and lascivious acts upon a child involve sexual contact between a minor who is 13 or younger and a defendant of any age. This offense also includes contact between a minor who is 14 or 15 and a defendant who is at least ten years older than the minor. Potential Penalties for Statutory Rape Depending on the ages of the parties, and other factors, statutory rape crimes can be tried as misdemeanors or felonies in California. Sex Offender Registration State law requires, in addition to the applicable fines and prison time, that people convicted of certain sexual crimes including certain instances of statutory rape must register as sex offenders.
Statutory rape marital exception California has a marital exemption for statutory rape that allows married people to have consensual sex even if their ages would prohibit it if they were not married. The marital defense is a remnant of the marital rape exemption.
Minors are legally incapable of giving consent to having sex; so for example, if Jen, a 16 year old willingly has sex with Tony, her 23 year old boyfriend, Tony can be charged with rape, since Jen is not legally capable of giving consent in the first place. But if Jen and Tony are married and living in California, Tony need not fear criminal charges for having consensual sex with Jen. This is because California has a marital exemption to the California statutory rape laws.
However, if Tony were to rape Jen force her to have sex against her will , he would have no protection under the law even if the two are married. When the parties are both minors: In California, there is a Romeo and Juliet exemption for consensual sex between minors who are three or fewer years apart in age. However, this is a limited exception because it serves to reduce the conduct from a felony to a misdemeanor offense. The conduct is still illegal, but someone protected by this exception will face the possibility of smaller fines and reduced jail time.
Mistake of age Defendants accused of statutory rape often claim that they had no reason to know that their partner was underage. They may argue that the child said that he or she was of age, and that a reasonable person would have believed it. Unlike in most states, in California mistake of age is sometimes a defense.
Legal Help If you are facing a statutory rape charge, consider consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney who regularly practices in your area. Laws can change over time, and numerous defenses may apply to statutory rape charges. A lawyer can often negotiate with the prosecutor for a lesser charge or a reduction in penalties such as, for example, probation instead of prison time and will know how prosecutors and judges typically handle cases like yours.