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Are There Exceptions to California’s Statutory Rape Laws?

September 8, 2019

There is no Romeo and Juliet exception to California’s statutory rape laws

Are There Exceptions to California’s Statutory Rape Laws?

California, like all states, has harsh laws regarding sex with minors. Under California law, statutory rape occurs when any person engages in sexual intercourse with a person who is under the age of 18. It is also referred to as unlawful sex with a minor or unlawful sexual intercourse.

In California, the age of consent is 18. It does not matter if the alleged victim initiated the sexual activity or consented to it. As a sex crimes defense lawyer Orange County, CA can explain, a person under the age of 18 cannot consent to sex in California. As a result, if you are age 18 or older and have sex with a person under the age of 18, you could be charged with the crime of statutory rape.

Many states have what are known as Romeo and Juliet laws, which are exceptions to overly harsh statutory rape laws that punish consensual sexual relationships between peers. For example, in Pennsylvania, an individual cannot be prosecuted for statutory rape for consensual sexual acts between a minor who is 13 or older and a defendant who is less than 14 years older.

These exceptions are meant to protect young people from being charged with a crime for having romantic relationships. If two teens decide to have sex, the theory is that they should not be prosecuted for doing so consensually. However, there is no such exception in California. Anyone can be prosecuted for having sex with a minor — even another minor.

Statutory rape is a wobbler offense. That means that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts of the crime.

  • If the defendant is no more than 3 years older than the alleged victim, statutory rape is charged as a misdemeanor.
  • If the defendant is more than 3 years older than the alleged victim, statutory rape may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
  • If the defendant is 21 or older and the alleged victim is under 16 at the time, then statutory rape may be charged as a misdemeanor felony; if charged as a felony, then the penalties are more severe.

Misdemeanor statutory rape convictions may result in informal probation, a jail term of up to 1 year, and/or a fine of up to $1,000. A felony statutory rape conviction may lead to probation for up to 1 year, between 16 months and 3 years in county jail, and up to $10,000 in fines. However, if the victim was under 16 and the defendant was 21 or older, then the potential sentence is between 2 and 4 years.

Fortunately, prosecutors rarely charge teenagers for having sex with other teenagers in California. However, everyone should be aware that this is a possibility. A minor who is charged with statutory rape would appear in juvenile court.

If you have been charged with statutory rape or a related crime, you will need an aggressive sex crimes defense lawyer Orange County, CA to represent you. The Chambers Law Firm can help. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free initial consultation.

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