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Get the Facts on California’s Statutory Rape Law

March 20, 2017

Consent is not a defense to a statutory rape charge.

Get the Facts on California’s Statutory Rape Law

In most rape cases, the question of guilt or innocence turns on who you believe.  Known as he said-she said cases, many rape cases are all about consent.  But in statutory rape cases, the question of consent is irrelevant.  If a person is under a certain age, the state of California has decreed that he or she cannot legally consent to sex — and you could be prosecuted for having sex with him or her.

Statutory rape is a serious crime, which can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor depending on the facts of the case and the person’s criminal history.  In essence, it involves one person over the age of 18 having sex with a person under the age of 18.  It does not matter if the sex was consensual; this crime is based solely on the ages of the parties involved.

To prove that a person committed statutory rape, a prosector has to prove just three things:  (1) that the defendant had sexual intercourse with another person; (2) that the persons involved were not married to each other at the time; and (3) that the alleged victim was under 18 years old at the time.  Unlike other sexual assault crimes, lack of consent is not an element of the crime of statutory rape.

When it comes to sentencing, the big factor that is considered is the age difference between the parties.  If the couple is a pair of teenagers (17 and 19), the relationship will be viewed quite differently than if it was a 50 year old man and a 17 year old girl. For that reason, if you are no more three years older than the alleged victim in a statutory rape case, then it will be charged as a misdemeanor.  If you are more than three years older than the alleged victim, it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.  If you are older than 21 and the alleged victim is age 16 or younger, then it could be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, and the potential felony penalties are far more harsh than would otherwise be applicable.  Depending on how statutory rape is charged, the penalties could range from as little as informal probation to up to four years in jail and $10,000 in fines. An adult defendant in a statutory rape case may also be forced to pay civil fines of up to $25,000.

Fighting statutory rape charges can be difficult, but a highly experienced California criminal defense attorney may be able to put together a defense based on the specific facts of your case.  For example, if you honestly and reasonably believed that the person in question was over the age of 18, that may be a defense to the charge.  This may work if you met the alleged victim in a bar, where all patrons had to present an ID showing that you are 21 to enter.  It would not work if you met the person at a high school, however, because you would not reasonably believe that a high school student was over the age of 18.

If you have been charged with statutory rape, you will need a skilled California criminal defense lawyer.  Contact the Chambers Law Firm today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free initial consultation.  We will work hard to defend you against statutory rape, sexual assault or other sex crime charges.

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